Our school has been running an increasingly successful auction gala for five years now. I like it because it helps us support really good work and because it winds up being a fun, grown-up night out with friends -- different from when we're all chasing kids around ball fields or school gyms. (We have a ton of good auction resources on ptotoday.com.)

But there is one area I still don't get and where I think my group is leaving money on the table. It's my tip for you this week, if you have an auction: Who says that silent auctions have to end using a clock?

I can't tell you how many times I've had five items I was following and bidding on, with all five spread in different sections of the room. It was impossible for me to get my max bid in for each of those items as the clock ticked down. I usually win the one or two that I stay physically closest to (sharp elbows and fast pen help immensely) but lose the several others across the room. Our school winds up selling those items for less than they could have. Auction profits go down.

The solution: Write into your auction rules that you reserve the right to turn any hotly contested silent auction item into a quickie live auction. If the clock hits the appointed hour and two or more parents are still competing, grab the sheet, hop up on a chair, and take bids. Two minutes later, you'll know that you got the most dollars you could for those items. Unfair? No way. Not if you disclose it in advance and run it openly. In both cases there is a winner and a loser of the item, but in my system the school maximizes earnings. Which is kind of the point of the auction, no?

Related note -- if you're looking for creative auction items to sell, this list of suggested auction items has been one of our most popular for years.


Our school has been running an increasingly successful auction gala for five years now. I like it because it helps us support really good work and because it winds up being a fun, grown-up night out with friends -- different from when we're all chasing kids around ball fields or school gyms. (We have a ton of good auction resources on ptotoday.com.)

But there is one area I still don't get and where I think my group is leaving money on the table. It's my tip for you this week, if you have an auction: Who says that silent auctions have to end using a clock?

I can't tell you how many times I've had five items I was following and bidding on, with all five spread in different sections of the room. It was impossible for me to get my max bid in for each of those items as the clock ticked down. I usually win the one or two that I stay physically closest to (sharp elbows and fast pen help immensely) but lose the several others across the room. Our school winds up selling those items for less than they could have. Auction profits go down.

The solution: Write into your auction rules that you reserve the right to turn any hotly contested silent auction item into a quickie live auction. If the clock hits the appointed hour and two or more parents are still competing, grab the sheet, hop up on a chair, and take bids. Two minutes later, you'll know that you got the most dollars you could for those items. Unfair? No way. Not if you disclose it in advance and run it openly. In both cases there is a winner and a loser of the item, but in my system the school maximizes earnings. Which is kind of the point of the auction, no?

Related note -- if you're looking for creative auction items to sell, this list of suggested auction items has been one of our most popular for years.