|SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS ARTICLE|
Bidding for Dollars:
"At a time when we're all feeling the impact of rising gas and food prices, the online auction is a fun, interactive way to shop and support local schools. As schools auction items that people shop for anyway, consumers will gladly make the leap to divert their purchasing power to support education and other causes," Stefan adds.
While independent schools have historically made up the bulk of the online auctions because they rely on private financing for their operating budgets, more and more public schools have embraced this method of fundraising. Of the $15 million raised by K-12 schools, at least $3 million has been for public schools. The fact that $1.1 million of this has been earned in the last six months illustrates the growing need and the rapid rate at which the practice is being adopted by public schools.
"We have been pleased with both of our auctions," says Susan Luce, one of the organizers. "It was easy, and the potential to make more money for the school was very attractive."
Obtaining donations for the auction is the most involved task for the Chesterbrook PTA. A group of committed parents uses its contacts within the community to solicit donations from businesses. Having the same person lead the event both years has streamlined the process. The parent-teacher organization also has a team of helpers which is devoted to data input.
"You have to be organized and keep all of the items cataloged so that you can get them to the winners," Luce advises. "We never input the items until we have them in hand to avoid future problems."
She adds that the PTA plans to focus more energy on restaurant gift certificates for its next auction because those items usually garner their value or more.
"Our PTA has used the funds obtained through auctions to install sound fields in the classrooms. The sound fields ensure that every child can hear the teacher no matter where he or she is standing," reported Luce. "The money is also used to fund ongoing activities each year."
The types of goods sold by schools vary, but many auctions include products and services from local merchants, tickets to sporting events, restaurant certificates, vacation home rentals, or professional services such as teeth whitening, tax preparation, massage, and photography. Surprisingly, some of the most desirable items in these auctions are virtually "free" and exclusive to schools. Having a child deliver the daily school message over the public address system for a week is one example.
"Schools themselves are a great source of no-cost items that parents can purchase like student artwork, a reserved parking spot, front-row tickets to graduation or a holiday concert, principal for a day privileges, private sports lessons with the physical education coach, a date with a favorite teacher, passes for a week in which uniforms dont need to be worn, and school apparel and memorabilia are always popular," Stefan says.
With few corporate sponsors, the PTA at William L. Valentine Elementary School in San Marino, California, relies on its knowledge of what the community wants to buy -- such as dining packages -- and its ability to create priceless treasures. For its most recent auction, each child crafted an original quilt square.
The auction also contained dining, spa and beauty, collectibles, clothing, sports, and recreational listings.
"Our items are obtained by soliciting donations from parents, friends, and neighborhood businesses," Melford said. "The funds raised through the online auctions go directly to fund arts, computer, and library programs."
A pool of products and services which are free or available on consignment is provided in the Bidding for Good Marketplace so that schools can offer an array of items to appeal to a broader group. These range from cruises, to hot air balloon rides, bowling parties, luxury hotel stays, jewelry, and home dcor.
"A simple but effective equation is more items + more bidders = more money," explains Stefan. "The sheer number of people associated with a school -- from parents to teachers, alumni, local merchants, distant relatives, and friends -- provides the fuel needed to run a successful online auction. The online platform also allows the school to attract more donors and sell sponsorships, and BiddingForGood further extends the bidding community nationally."
Schools often run online auctions in conjunction with live events. Live events are excellent for bringing the school community together to recognize supporters. However, because people can be distracted with socializing or may be uncomfortable bidding in front of a group, live auctions are not always the ideal means to raise money. Holding an online auction in advance provides a greater audience and enables participants to bid at their convenience.
"You don't have to bring as many items to the live event, which can be an administrative nightmare," Stefan shared. "In some instances, bidding will begin on auction items online and then carry over for continued bidding at the live event. In such cases, the school appoints an absentee bidder to bid on behalf of the online donor. Without the online component, that bidder would not be able to participate."
When schools receive a time sensitive or special donation, like Super Bowl tickets, they often list the item only in an online auction. These listings may attract thousands of bidders. Online auctions also come in handy because of their ease and flexibility. For example, the Pan Mass Challenge community bike ride had to cancel a recent live event due to rain storms, so the items were transferred to an online auction. In another instance, a school in southern California ran an online auction for Dodger tickets that were donated a month after its live silent auction. Even when organizations opt for a live auction, it is common for them to use the online platform to relist items that did not sell.
"The fact that I can get a unique item, say an iPhone, maybe for less than retail and support a school in the process -- from across the country and in the privacy and convenience of my home -- and trust that the school actually has and will ship the item, makes online auction shopping an easy choice for any consumer," Stefan observed.
One of the most widely recognized sites for auctions, eBay offers resources to help newcomers get started and a special program called "Giving Works" that facilitates listings for nonprofits.
Receiving much recent attention in the press is Charity Folks, a leading online marketplace for nonprofit fundraising, corporate cause-marketing campaigns, and celebrity-driven charity initiatives.
S&S Worldwide Grants and Funding Help
A free service where nonprofits can search for grants, recruit a grants writer, and even apply for grants offered by S&S Worldwide, a distributor of arts and crafts, sports, and educational supplies.
My School Auctions
My School Auctions makes it easy to administer your school fundraising auction. The site provides all the resources you need to carry out a successful and profitable school fundraising event.
Article by Cara Bafile
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Originally published 09/01/2008
Last updated 11/10/2010