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School Auctions 101: Getting Started

Hosting an auction at your school is not a simple feat; however, with the right planning and resources it can lead to funded projects and increased giving. Bake sales are the way of the past, and schools are now turning towards auctions as a way to raise funds and pull their community together.

This series and eGuide will act as your key to creating a successful auction for your school by highlighting all of the moving parts that are involved:

  • Choosing a theme
  • Forming volunteer teams
  • Event budgets
  • Marketing
  • What kind of bidding paddles to use

Each piece of the process contributes to how much money is raised. 

Getting Started with School Auctions

After reading our getting started series and eGuide, you will be able to develop best practices, improve your payment flexibility by using mobile card readers, learn how to acquire items for your auction, and ask questions to help you get started. This series is also developed with the assumption that your school has not previously hosted an auction; however, it will include some great information for those who already have. For those who have planned auctions in the past, you will have considerably less planning to do, especially if you already have volunteers and a process that can be reused.

The important thing to note that while fund raising is the ultimate goal, that your first auction is a stepping-stone for growth year-over-year. Each year that you continue to host an auction successfully will lead to great attendance numbers and funds raised.

auction gavel

Getting Started: Planning, Themes, and Stories

Planning for an auction won’t happen over night, let alone in a week. You need to develop a volunteer team, select a venue, get the attention of your parents and community, find items to auction off, and get a process in place for accepting the winning bids.  At a minimum, you should develop a team three months prior to the auction, and use the preceding time to plan out all the details; however, if you want to play it safe, start planning a year in advance. This will allow you the flexibility to work around your volunteer’s schedules without being too taxing, and build in ample time to market it as well. Once you have a timeline in place, start looking at themes.

One of the most important factors for your auction is choosing a theme. Having a general auction is acceptable, but for your parents, alumni, and community to fully support your cause it’s ideal to have a specific mission.

If you are looking to improve the technology available in your school, replace part of a library, or finally get rid of all your chalkboards for touch-enabled boards, going into planning with this mission in mind will act is a foundation to build on. Further, tying your mission to a story about how the raised funds will positively affect their community, it will draw in a greater crowd. Though the auction may be about your school, bidders will be more apt to give you money if it affects them. Top your mission and story off with a theme, and you have an attention-grabbing event that your community will love to be involved with. Finding volunteers will also be easier since you will have a better grasp of who can relate to the theme.

Once you know your mission and how the resulting funds will positively affect your community, it will be easier to identify volunteers and parents who can make the largest contributions. Asking these people to participate not only plants a seed so that they know their contribution will be valued, but you’ll likely gain some excellent volunteers to help plan and execute the auction. Another important member of your team will be the auctioneer, which can either be an experienced auctioneer or even a local celebrity.

The last necessity to focus on besides acquiring items for your live and silent auction is the venue. Some schools use their own facilities while others will rent a better space that can be better decorated according to the theme. Selecting a venue is mostly dependent upon the cost, availability, and the amount of guests that you expect will attend the auction.

An auction may initially seem like it could be rather costly, but with the right amount of planning the entire cost can be covered through sponsorships from the community, admission to the auction, and even mini raffles throughout the night. If you can find someone to donate space, food and beverages, and create a volunteer team, a majority of your costs will only come in the form of time spent planning. Factor this in for who you initially reach out to when planning, as some of your community or parents may have suitable facilities for an.

Care to skip ahead? Download our free eGuide now, and learn how your school can host its first auction.