Hosting an Auction Fundraiser for Your School: 3 Tips

Schools rely on fundraising to support their students, create a better learning environment, and fund important extracurricular activities. A well-planned fundraising strategy can make a huge difference in how well your school is able to meet its students’ needs. However, without an engaging fundraising idea, it can be difficult to pull in support and boost revenue.

School auctions are fundraising events that will widely appeal to your students, parents, and members of the community. An auction fundraiser can help your school maximize participation and make students and their families excited to give. In an auction, donors can compete to bid on interesting items that your school has procured. When time is up, the highest bidder takes home their prize, and your school earns the proceeds. It’s a win-win scenario! 

In this article, we’ll walk you through how to plan and execute a successful school auction that is bound to raise serious funds:

Learn how you can set your school up for success with this effective and flexible fundraiser.

Choose the auction type.

Auctions are highly adaptable and can be shaped to fit your school’s budget and size. There are four different types of auctions your school can choose from:

  • Live auction. A live auction is a highly engaging auction type that takes place in person and is led by an auctioneer. The auctioneer will present each item and invite the audience to bid. Guests will use mobile bidding software or hold up bidding paddles to make bids. Live auctions tend to be large-scale events with plenty of entertainment as well as catering, though they can be adapted to fit a variety of different contexts.
  • Silent auction. A silent auction makes the bidding process more discrete. Instead of calling out bids, donors will look through the items up for auction and submit bids via mobile bidding or on paper bid sheets. While bidding is open, participants can check if they’ve been outbid and then submit a higher amount than their competition. A silent auction can easily be adapted to take place as an in-person, online, or hybrid event. 
  • Virtual auction. A virtual auction takes the auction process entirely online, allowing your school to reach people beyond your local community. Even though guests aren’t physically together, a virtual auction can still be made engaging by incorporating gamification elements, auctioning exciting items, and adding a live-streaming component to create a sense of community. Virtual auctions tend to take place over a longer period of time than in-person auctions, giving students and community members plenty of time to place their bids outside of their busy schedules. 
  • Hybrid auction. A hybrid auction combines in-person and virtual elements to make a highly memorable live event. Along with hosting a virtual audience to engage in silent bidding, your school can invite a smaller audience to attend in-person. 

Once you’ve decided on the type of auction you want to host, consider basic details like when your event will take place and where you will host it if it’s taking place in-person. 

Whether you’re hosting an in-person, virtual, or hybrid auction, it’s important to invest in auction software. Auction software can help streamline the entire event management process with helpful features like pre-auction item browsing, mobile bidding options, and secure payment processing. 

Procure exciting items.

To encourage people to give to your fundraiser, you’ll need items that are relevant to your audience’s interests. The main audience you’ll likely focus on includes parents and community members rather than students, though sometimes alumni make great auction supporters. 

If you’ve hosted a school auction in the past, reflect on your past successes to inform your current auction fundraising strategy. For example, consider questions such as: Which items received the most bids? Which items received very few bids? What was the age demographic of your audience? 

If you haven’t hosted a school auction in the past, you’ll have to brainstorm ideas for items that will appeal to donors. Use the following tips from the OneCause guide to charity auctions to guide your procurement process:

  • Consider your audience’s price range. Don’t procure expensive art pieces or dining experiences if your guests would be more likely to bid on moderately priced items like a spa day or babysitting service. Look at your past fundraising data for metrics like average donation amounts so you can better understand what your audience is willing to spend. 
  • Understand your audience’s interests. Parents will likely be interested in bidding on family-friendly experiences or even school merchandise. Consider what’s popular in your community and what will inspire bids. 
  • Vary your items. Offer a variety of items so you can meet the different interests of your audience. Avoid procuring items that all fall under the same category, like only auctioning off school merchandise. 

Once you’ve pinned down the type of items you want, begin looking for budget-friendly ways to procure them. For example, you can ask community members to donate items that would be of interest. According to Re:Charity, you can also form a corporate partnership with a local business and have them donate or buy items on your behalf, and in exchange, your school can help promote their company at your fundraiser. 

Market your auction.

The most important part of planning your auction fundraiser is making sure people know that it’s happening. Your school will need to spread the word widely across its student body and members of the community. 

Use the following channels to increase excitement around your event and get as many people to sign up as possible:

  • School announcements and flyers. Ensure that your students know all about your event by making announcements during the school day and handing out fundraiser flyers promoting your event. 
  • Email. Send out an email to your students’ parents with the logistical details for your event as well as the registration link to sign up. Make your email more engaging by adding fun visuals and highlighting the different types of items that will be up for bid. Encourage participation by emphasizing the value of fundraising for your school and how the money raised will go back to support their students’ education. 
  • Your school website. Create a beautifully designed event landing page on your website to advertise your auction fundraiser. Motivate people to sign up by including a countdown clock until the event and creating a bulleted list of benefits of attendance, such as food or entertainment. 

Along with encouraging participation in your communications, you can also offer another way to give, such as by including your school’s donation page link, to create another revenue stream. This way, if people can’t attend your school auction, they can still help fundraise for your cause.

Although auctions require more planning than a more casual event, they can generate amazing ROIs for your school. With a well-planned auction, your school can bring in essential funds and form stronger bonds with its community. Use auction software to streamline the planning and execution process to create an exciting school auction. Enjoy your auction!

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