How to Level Up Your School Auction: Tips from Nonprofit Pros

Whether you are the parent of a student at the school or a school employee who wants to help out, putting on a fundraising event might seem like an overwhelming project. You and your fellow PTA or booster club members probably aren’t professional fundraisers, but you still want to plan great events that are stress-free and help your child’s school to thrive. We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to be a professional to put on an amazing fundraiser.

Whether you’re hosting an auction or other event for your school, you can learn a lot from the professionals who have seen it all throughout the years.

With these tips, you can level up your school’s auction fundraiser and make your event a smash!

Tailor events for your audience

Nonprofits intentionally tailor everything for their audience and their interests. Every step of the process, from events to donation appeals, to marketing, should cater to your potential donors and what will motivate them to be involved.

Let’s use the example of choosing items for a silent auction. To choose the best items, successful nonprofits consider:

  • Offering a variety of items, such as gift cards, experiences, exclusive items, and collectibles that are hard to find.
  • Tailoring items to their audience’s demographics. For example, if their audience is mostly retired with no children in the home, a nonprofit will not focus on getting items like tickets to the children’s museum.
  • Bringing back items that were highly popular at last year’s auction.

Considering all of these things for your school auction may be a challenge because of the wide range of your student families, but it’s still important to think about when planning your events if you want a great turnout of people.

Use software to make events more engaging

As someone who is involved in your child’s school, you are probably aware of the many ways that schools are using software platforms in the classroom. Consider branching out to use software to improve your events, too. There are plenty of budget-friendly options out there that can help you host extra engaging fundraisers.

For nonprofit auctions, we’ve learned that quality software can elevate events to a whole new level, helping organizations raise even more money for their causes.

Auction software can greatly improve your guests’ overall experience. Here’s how:

  • Browsing items is easier: If there are long lines or even if guests can’t make it to the event in person, they can browse and search your catalog of items on their phones. From your online catalog, they can see photos, item descriptions, and all the bidding information they need to know.
  • Bidding is more efficient: Instead of having to wait, write their information again and again on bid sheets, and constantly check to see if they’ve been outbid, attendees can do it all from their phones. With mobile bidding, guests bid faster and raise their bids more often.
  • Checking out is streamlined: Do some of your guests have to leave the event early? No problem. Online checkout allows every attendee to easily pay for the items they win from anywhere.

Using software like this will alleviate your work on the day of the event, create an excellent experience for your bidders, and help you raise more money for your school.With cell phones making their way into the classroom anyway, it’s only natural that you use them to improve school events as well.

Offer multiple ways to participate

In the example above, auction software gave our event the added benefit of letting guests participate and bid in the auction from anywhere. Providing in-person and online options for silent auctions is just one of the many ways you can give guests more opportunities to engage with your school fundraiser.

Almost any school fundraiser can be modified for people who want to participate in the room or from hundreds of miles away. For example, you can sell cookie dough online using a web store, or if you are hosting an art show, it can be livestreamed to relatives and friends in other states. Offering additional participation options like these makes your events more accessible and leads to more crucial donations for your school.

Make events fun for volunteers, too

Volunteers not only make a fundraising event successful, they can also turn into longtime supporters and donors. Because nonprofits want to encourage good relationships and future giving from these supporters, they have to provide great volunteer experiences at auctions.

Even if your volunteers don’t donate, you should still provide an engaging and fun experience that will make them want to volunteer again at a future event. Here are a few ways you can provide a great experience for your volunteers:

  • Provide detailed training
  • Communicate often
  • Give them ownership in your fundraising goals
  • Allow them to choose the role they play at the event
  • Give them free food at the event
  • Appreciate them with small thank you gifts

If you have older students volunteering, give them applicable experience and emphasize the transferable skills they’ll gain by volunteering at this event and others like it. They may be surprised how much their leadership, organizational, and communication skills can grow by helping out at an auction. Let upperclassmen know they can put the experience on their college resumes, too!

You are a hero for helping to raise money for your school. These tips are a great starting point for anyone looking to host a fundraiser; especially one with an auction. If you want to take your event to the next level, diversify it to include several mini fundraisers within the event! Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll feel confident knowing that you don’t need to be a professional fundraiser or event planner to raise money in your community.

Author: Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter, Founder & CEO of Handbid, has spent 18 years in the nonprofit industry. In 2004 he founded the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado where he still resides as board chair. Jeff learned early on that nonprofits desperately needed better and more affordable fundraising solutions.  Leveraging his software background, he built most of the tools his charities used, and in 2011 he launched Handbid at his own fundraising event.  The goal was to improve the guest experience, reduce administration and increase revenue.  Handbid accomplished all of those goals, effectively doubling revenue in its debut. Nine years later, Handbid’s suite of tools has delighted over a half-million guests, generated millions of bids, and helped thousands of charities raise well over $100 million.

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