My daughter’s school holds a huge auction event every year to raise money for the school. It takes place at the annual school fair in the spring, another fundraising event that happens to be loads of fun for the students.
Here’s How it Works:
Each class is in charge of submitting one item to be auctioned off at the fair. But you can’t just go out and buy something! The item must be customized in some way by the students in the class.
If you are interested in setting up a live auction fundraiser for your school, here’s how to do it:
1. The Main Event
The auction truly is the “main event” of the school fair, but that’s not why every single person is present on the campus for it. The school contracts out a company that brings carnival rides, games, and food vendors to the campus. There’s a huge stage with live music. The school also sets up booths run by volunteers (parents –by force, mind you) that serve food and drinks, sell T-shirts, and run games.
If you feel overwhelmed, you should… This fair has been in existence for at least 30 years and has had plenty of time to grow during that time. You don’t need all of that to have a successful auction.
First, look at the events your school already puts on, and ask yourself:
Is there a large portion of the school’s parents and grandparents attending this event? Would an auction blend well with the overall theme of the event?
These are your most important questions! For a successful auction, you NEED:
- Parents and grandparents who would be interested in bidding on items that are not only nice, but also carry sentimental value.
- An event that meshes well with the idea of a live auction.
If there are no established events like this at the school, think about hosting a food-centered fundraiser along with the auction. Our school’s biggest food-only fundraiser is the spaghetti dinner held right around homecoming. There’s not only spaghetti though! About a month earlier, the school puts on a cheerleading camp for PreK through 3rd grade, and just about every little girl signs up. The cheer camp students perform the cheers they learned AT the spaghetti dinner. The gym is always packed. The coaches also give out athletic awards to the 4th-8th grade students, so their parents and grandparents are there as well!
2. The Principal
If you want to set up any kind of fundraiser, you will have to meet with the principal or someone in a similar leadership position. Write down all of your thoughts on it before the meeting and pitch your idea.
This is a fundraising opportunity that can slowly be built upon over time. The school can invite parents or local businesses to donate items for the auction. The school can auction off free things like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd spot in the carpool line. Yes, our school does that, and the spots sell for thousands of dollars.
It’s basically free money. Make sure you mention that. 😉
If you have an event picked out and approval/support from the school, it’s time to start thinking about how to implement your awesome idea. This is where all the Room Moms come in. If this is to be a reoccurring event, your principal may advise you to save the plans for the next school year, because it’s only fair to let the room moms know ahead of time that an auction item will be their responsibility for the year.
When someone signs up to be a Room Mom at my daughter’s school, they already know about the auction and their responsibility to provide an auction item ahead of time. The fair is in the spring, so that gives Room Moms several months to think about the item they would like to submit to the auction.
You will need find someone willing to be the auctioneer. You do not necessarily need to hire a professional auctioneer. An outgoing parent, teacher or coach would be a great fit for the job. Our principal actually fills this position!
5. Auction Items
For the auction at our school, generally the items are valued around $100 and up. Many parents donate their time and build things like furniture, outdoor planters, and bookshelves all decorated by the students. I’ve also seen custom books made by the students (which can easily be made on sites like Shutterfly.com), also custom quilts, and home decor.
Don’t feel like you have to start out with big ticket items. Start small, and leave room for future growth. It will grow year after year, just like the fair has grown over the years. One item I was able to see from the very first auction at our school was a simple canvas with students’ handprints surrounding a Dr. Seuss quote. Simple and cheap to make!
Organize your items by giving each item an item number. Mark each item using removable filing labels or hanging tags. Or both. 🙂
If you want people to show up to your event, ready for an auction, you’d better make sure they know about it!
- Make sure the school newsletter has a section telling everyone about it.
- Have a school-wide email sent out to everyone on their email list.
- Have other Room Moms email their class parents about it to remind them just before the event.
- Post on the school Facebook page or other social media (if this is allowed), etc.
- If your school is associated with a church, have the pastor announce it to the Sunday congregation for several weeks leading up to the event to get the word out.
7. Setting Up Bidders
You will need a few simple materials for this part on the day of your auction:
- A bidder registration sheet
- Bidder cards or paddles
At your event, plan to have a registration table where bidders can register their name/phone number/email onto a list next to a number corresponding to the number on the bidder card or paddle.
If you have a smaller group you certainly may be able to skip this portion, but you will have to have someone collecting the contact information from the highest bidder after each item.
Furthermore, make sure you have someone with a notepad keeping track of the winning bid amount and the bidder number of the winner!
I hope this was helpful and gives you the confidence to start your own fundraising auction! It always ends up being so much fun for the parents and grandparents at our school.
Let me know what kind of fundraisers your child’s school has each year. I’d love to know!
Resources for Room Moms
- New to Room Parenting? Get access to the Room Mom Resource Library filled with tons of free templates & printables to help you throughout the year!
- 7 Room Mom Duties to Know (Before You Sign Up)
- Plan Your Entire Year as Room Mom with this Calendar Cheat Sheet
- Planning a class gift? Learn How to Write a Room Mom Letter to Parents Asking for Money