Auction fundraisers are quite the undertaking, so if you’re going to spend the time and make the effort to put on an auction, you’ll want to ensure it’s a winner.
So let’s dive in and lay out exactly what you need to know for success!
Not many PTO fundraisers are successful when put together at the last minute.
And an auction is one fundraiser that benefits most from lots of advance planning.
Allot at least six months of planning and prep time for best results.
Truth be told, it’s really never too early to start planning an auction because more planning time makes for more time to get donations.
And also more time to promote the event, both of which factor into the payoff at the close of the fundraiser.
The success of every auction is highly dependent on the timing of the event.
But really, it’s no different from anything else in life, in that timing is literally everything.
If the auction conflicts with another event, whether the school play or a big sporting event, it’s not going to be as successful as it would’ve been without the conflict.
Competing for attention and time is hard, so avoid getting in that position in the first place by planning strategically to avoid conflicts.
Before landing on a date for the auction fundraiser, first check your group’s calendar, then your school and school district calendars.
If the date still looks like it will work, do a final conflict check and look at calendars of professional sport teams or other local events before settling on an event date.
This last step is a bit of extra insurance into a calendar conflict that might take out a good chunk of potential auction participants that would otherwise be auction participants.
Another timing consideration is the condition of your local economy.
Some years are not going to be good for an auction, especially in the case of a recession or other economic downturn.
That’s because businesses and companies may not have the same flexibility to give as generously as they would’ve been otherwise and families not have spare money to participate in the auction.
But locally, the economic situation of your community might be much different, so don’t assume economic hardship.
Test the waters by seeking a few donations and ask families how they feel about the fundraiser before deciding to hold one or not.
Consider Adding On
If you don’t have the time, space or room on the calendar for a stand alone auction event, consider adding an auction element onto an existing event or program.
Nearly every event, whether a Carnival, Fall Fest, Talent Show or something else, can support the addition of an auction fundraiser.
Especially consider adding an auction to any event that draws a big crowd, since the potential bidder pool will be wider than for smaller events, meaning more eyes on the prizes.
This should translate into more money earned in the end. Yay!
Next, add an online auction component to vastly increase the number of potential participants and minimize schedule conflicts.
This strategy instantly improves your chances of getting the right person to see the prize and expend beyond your school community for participants.
Friends and family members can participate in a PTO auction that has an online presence which is much different from an auction that requires physical presence at the event!
So be sure to add this option to give more people access to bidding on the fabulous prizes you’re sure to acquire.
The last piece of the auction success puzzle is getting the word out about the auction.
If no one knows about your auction, then it’ll be impossible for people to support it!
So be sure to publicize the event early and often, meaning more than you think you should!
Check out this post for 21 Ways to Publicize Your PTO Event Without Thinking About It.
Combine in school announcements like decorated bulletin boards, morning announcements and flyers posted in windows, with emails to parents, and social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Contact a local news reporter to interview you for a story about not only your auction, but also the motivation for the event.
Get into the details of what your group will use the money for for a feel-good feature the local newsroom will feel good about highlighting.
It’s always good to give the larger community insight into school happenings, and you’ll likely get a few more supporters that way.
Prize quality is the next factor that determines an auction’s success potential.
Aim to always seek out quality prizes versus quantity.
It’s far better to have a smaller selection really nice prizes that people will be excited to bid on, than a bunch of random baskets filled with dollar store items.
Work to boost the value of lower value items by grouping them together, and then pairing them with higher value items to boot.
This makes the bundle more interesting and appealing to a wider swath of people at the same time.
Moreover, having a nice variety of prizes will net you more money in the end, than a narrowing offering.
That’s just like having only expensive items available will price certain people out of the event.
Your PTO will raise more when more people can participate, so don’t close the door on that possibility by only offering items with high starting amounts.
Offer a healthy mix of price points instead.
Another clever prize category is something people usually buy anyway.
Take for example a city pool pass.
Many families already plan to buy pool passes each Summer and the chance to get it for a small discount will be really enticing.
And you’ll get face value or near for it in an auction setting, more if bundled with other items!
This prize offering strategy is super smart since you’re not asking families to make an additional purchase outside of their budget… you’re just giving them the opportunity to purchase from your PTO. Ion the end, families see it as a two-for!
Further, another smart strategy that’s sure to upwardly tweak your fundraising income is to offer items that either can’t be bought or are hard to find.
Does a family own a cabin nearby and can offer an overnight stay?
Can the school’s tennis coach offer a private lesson and spirit swag package?
Will the Mayor offer up the opportunity to be Mayor for a Day?
Basically, the idea here is to mine your connections both inside and outside of the school for cool prizes families can’t get anywhere else and you’ll love the results come the end of the auction.
Over to You!
A successful auction comes down to being strategic about the timing, products and prizes offered and publicity for the event itself and the prize offering.
Follow the tips outlined in this post for massive auction fundraising success!