Monday 9 Feb, 2015

How to Hold an Auction Fundraiser

“One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya give me two? Two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya give me three? Going once, going twice, SOLD, to the lady in the blue sweater.”

In many ways, an auction is the perfect fundraiser for student trips—it brings your community together for a unique event, it offers publicity for local participating businesses, and it raises money for the students travelling on your tour.

The basic idea of an auction is simple: invite people together for a night of bidding on merchandise and services. Auctions can be one of two kinds: a standard “English auction” (known for the open outcries of bidders and auctioneers), or a silent auction. We’ll offer you tips on both below.

Preparation time: 1-2 months

Money up front: $0-200 (cost will depend on whether you need to rent a sound system or lighting equipment)

Collecting your items
The first thing you need to do is source the items that people will bid on. The best way to go about this is to approach businesses within your community and see what they’d be willing to offer.

1) Spread the word to local business owners that your students will be approaching them in hopes of collecting donated items to be bid on. You can either announce a designated day or contact the businesses individually to schedule a time.

2) In return for their donations, inform businesses that they will be advertised at the event and listed as a sponsor.

3) Remember: auction items don’t have to be limited to material objects. A ride to school, a night of babysitting, or yard work can be just as valuable.

4) Try to get local businesses to also donate refreshments that you can sell at the event to raise additional funds.

Holding an “English auction”

An English auction is the term given to the commonly known variety of auction where an auctioneer calls out a steadily increasing price as participants attempt to outbid each other. If you’ve ever witnessed one, you’ll know that it can get quite exciting and dramatic. Here’s how you can plan one for your fundraiser:

1) Find an auctioneer—basically someone to run the show. If you can find a professional auctioneer, then it will definitely increase the excitement level. However, if one isn’t available then try finding someone good with crowds, who doesn’t mind doing a little bit of entertaining.

2) Make numbered paddles to hand out to the bidders (the numbers help keep track of who wins the right to purchase each item). Feel free to be creative with these—for student tours to New York, try making paddles shaped like the Empire State Building or even “big apples.” For trips to Ottawa, make paddles shaped like loonies or maple leaves. You get the idea…

3) For the night of the event, pick one person to record bidder information and to settle all money transactions after the auction is over.

Holding a silent auction

With a silent auction, there is no big show. The items are put on display with bidding sheets alongside them, and people come by and write down their bids.

1) Secure an area to display the auction items and set up times for open bidding.

2) Place bidding sheets next to each item so that community members can write down bids (and place more than one in attempt to outbid each other). At a designated time, the bidding ends, and whoever wrote down the highest bid wins the item.

At the end of a successful auction night—whether standard or silent—everyone goes home happy. For the people who won their bids, they’ve got themselves a new prize. For everyone who attended, it was a fun night doing something a little bit different with friends and neighbours. And of course, for you and your students, you’ve raised money toward an amazing EF student trip. Going once, going twice, sold!

Photo credit
Auction photo by BurnAway via flickr.