School Auctions Got You Stressed Out?

This post is the first 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

Would you like to reduce the stress of preparing for your school auction?

An auction is a big event and these things take time. Give yourself and your team the best possible advantage by starting early. In the nonprofit world, smart auction planners begin planning for their event up to twelve months in advance. This helps them create a quality experience for their supporters and reach their fundraising goals without burning out their volunteers.
Schools have a particular challenge. Most schools hold their benefit auction in the spring. But the school year starts in the fall. If the planning committee begins their work in September, they are three to four months behind the standard auction timeline. Here’s how to ramp up your planning early to create a less stressful auction season.

Save the Date

Set the date for next year’s school auction before this year’s auction takes place. That way you can announce it at this year’s event and get people excited about coming back. Book the venue now as well, while you have the widest choice of options available. Many of these locations fill up fast. Setting the date early also gives you a better selection of vendors, from caterers and florists to professional event auctioneers. You’ll also have more time to recruit volunteers and invite guests. Next year’s team will thank you for the extra time to plan and execute. And if you are part of that team, you’ve just given yourself an enormous advantage.

Lay the Groundwork for Next Year

When this year’s auction is over, take a big breath and celebrate together. You deserve it! Then start planning now for next year. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s the minimum you need to accomplish before the end of the school year. If you can do more, fantastic!
• Analyze this year’s results and set next year’s goals.
• Select next year’s auction chair and committee chairs.
• Hold a procurement planning session and set procurement goals.
Download the Best Practices for School Auctions Guide

Procure During the Summer

It’s really tempting to take the summer off, but if you and your team can work steadily on procurement, you’ll be less stressed next year. Giving yourself more time means you can approach procurement in a more relaxed manner and build relationships with your donors. No one likes to be pushed up against a deadline. Starting early gives your donors time to consider what to offer as well. If they have a pleasant experience with you, they’ll be more likely to participate again in the future.
So put together a procurement team and develop a firm plan. Then support each other as you go out into the community to procure those desirable items for next year’s auction.

What’s Your Experience?

How does your organization manage the auction planning timeline? What are some of the barriers to starting the planning process early? How do you address those barriers? Have you planned auctions on a short timeline? What was that experience? Please share your insights in the comments below so we can all learn how to do this better.


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