Engaging Parents in Procurement

This post is the tenth in a series of posts based on the “Best Practices for School Auctions” whitepaper  from the Greater Giving Fundraising Excellence Series. Each new post covers the unique challenges school auction planners face, and how to overcome those challenges. Read additional articles: School Auctions Series.

Putting on an auction is a huge job and you’ll need a small army to pull it off.

Luckily, you already have a pool of people with a vested interest in your school’s success—your parent community. So how do you empower parents to procure winning items for your auction? Tap into their natural motivation and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Communicate Early and Often

If you want to get parents on board with your procurement efforts, make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish. What is your vision? Paint a picture of how their student will benefit when you succeed in raising the funds. What programs, facilities and opportunities will you be able to offer? Then clearly state your revenue and procurement goals for achieving this vision.

Throughout the procurement season, communicate your progress toward your goals. Celebrate successes, both large and small. Share parents’ stories about their procurement efforts: the humorous, the exciting, even the ones that flopped. You are learning about what works and what doesn’t. Build a camaraderie around the procurement effort so everyone feels like they are part of a team.

Assign Items Strategically

When assigning procurement items, divide and conquer. Parents are busy people. It’s a lot easier for them to say yes to a small, specific job than to a huge, complex one. So divide up your procurement list among as many volunteers as you can.

Be specific in your assignments to avoid confusion and duplication of effort. You can divide the list in different ways:

  • By Item Type: Have one person focus on personal services, someone else approach restaurants for gift certificates, and a third person seek out entertainment donations, etc.
  • By Geography: Assign the parents in each class to a particular neighborhood or zip code.
Download the Best Practices for School Auctions Guide

Leverage Competition

Most schools already have a friendly rivalry between classes and/or grades. Use this to your advantage and engage the students in the procurement process. Set class goals and hand out prizes to the winners. The most equitable way to determine the winner is to compare fair market value of the procured items and services. You could award prizes for:

  • Class that reaches the goal first.
  • Class that procures the most dollars (in fair market value).

Enlist Coordinators for Each Class

Your procurement committee will benefit from having direct communication with all classes/grades in your school. You could enlist a parent in each class to serve on your procurement committee as a “Package Coordinator.” They would be responsible for communicating with the other parents in their class and driving donations for the group. This parent could also help with any project or artwork the class plans to contribute to the auction.

Provide Tools

You want your parents to be as successful as possible, so provide them with a “Procurement Information Packet” to help make their job easier:

  • A donation request letter that they can just fill out and mail or email to their contacts.
  • Tips and tricks that will make their life easier (e.g. identify which retailers can make donation decisions at the store level and which ones need approval from the corporate office).
  • Upload all these documents to your event website for easy downloading and keep them up-to-date.

Celebrate Success

Nothing breeds success like success. Hold a kick-off meeting in the spring, shortly after this year’s auction and get your parent volunteers geared up for procuring over the summer. In the fall, celebrate the summer’s victories with a recharge meeting to re-energize your volunteers and get through the final push to bring in donations. Bring in food and beverages. Let your parents tell their stories and share what they’ve learned. Thank them for their efforts, be creative in showing your appreciation.

What’s Your Experience?

How do you engage your school’s parents in the procurement process? What kinds of communications work best to get parents on board? What encouragement and incentives help keep them going? Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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