Auctions Archive

From simple silent auctions to over-the-top galas with live auctions and six-figure returns, auctions have been a growing part of the PTO and PTA landscape for several years now. You'll find tons of auction ideas and help in the articles below. Find more helpful tools and info on the Auctions resources page.

  • 4 Awesome School Auction Themes

    Build enthusiasm for your silent auction by using one of these cool and unusual themes. And click around each graphic for fun details!
  • 6 Auction Experiences Kids Will Love To Win

    Enhance your auction (and up your bids) with these just-for-kids activities and experiences.
  • How To Make a Gift Basket

    Step-by-step instructions on making gift baskets for parent group auction events, plus clever theme suggestions for auction baskets.
  • Last-Minute Tips for Spring Auctions

    If your group is hosting an auction this spring, don’t panic if you still have lots of work left to do. That’s typical. We have plenty of last-minute tips for you!  Short on auction items? There’s not much time to solicit donations from national companies for a spring event.  So reach out to local businesses and see if they’d be willing to donate goods or services. In the meantime, consider creative auction items that can easily be added to your lineup (and don’t cost a thing). Ideas include:   • A behind-the-scenes tour of the school. Offer a guided tour with the principal for the kids. They’ll get to see the teachers lounge, basement, boiler room, and principal’s office.  • Special moments with the teacher: Ask teachers to offer a trip to the movies, a lunch date, or even babysitting services to families.  • A visit to the local firehouse or police station. Ask local police and fire departments if they’d offer private tours for families.  Not sure how to make the most of your items?The more appealing you can make an item, the better the chances that it will sell. You may have received donations that aren’t impressive auction items on their own—for example, a small appliance, like a blender, that has little pizazz to it. But you can turn the blender into a “sensational smoothies” basket by putting it in a large wicker basket and adding large plastic glasses for smoothies, travel mugs, a smoothie recipe book, silly straws, napkins, and prepackaged shake mixes.  Baskets work for professional service offerings and gift cards as well. Here’s a great example we found on Pinterest to promote painting services:    And here’s a clever way to package a gift card collection, also from Pinterest:    And if you’re not sure how to make a basket look its best, follow these instructions:    Are you getting the word out about your auction? If you are running a March or April event, start posting event announcements on all your channels, including Facebook.  We have some fun auction images from our Clip Art Gallery, like this one below, that you can use for social and email promotions. (Click the image to download.)    If you send ticket order forms to families, here's a way to simplify the process. Size the order form so that it can print on the front of letter-size envelopes. Families can return the envelopes to school with their ticket money inside. You also may want to consider creating a brochure for attendees that includes information on silent auction items, a list of sponsors, and a thank-you to volunteers. A community member posted this brochure template to our File Exchange that can be used as a template for your event. You could display an image of your school’s mascot or logo on the brochure’s cover. (Click the image to download.)  Have you done a mental walk-through of how the night will run? Because there are so many moving parts to an auction, it’s important to plan how each process will actually work. You don’t want little forgotten details to derail you.  Think about how many cash registers or check-out stations you’ll need. Plan to have a basket of incidentals, like pens, paper clips, and note paper at each station. Consider having runners to grab the purchased items and deliver them to the customers once they’ve paid for them.  Another question to consider: How will you display the silent auction items? Each item needs a bid sheet. We have one you can tailor to your specific event. (Click the image to download.)    Also, think about how to wrap up the silent auction. It helps to stagger when bids will close so there isn’t a stampede to the cash registers. You can try color-coding groups of similar auction items and close each color in 15-minute increments.  Finally, tuck away this template below for donor thank-you notes. (Click the image to download.) You’ll be glad you have it when your auction is done:    Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly
  • "Chair-ity" Auction Fundraiser

    Creatively decorated seats raise big money and help build community.
  • School Auctions: PTO Leaders Share What Sells

    The key to a successful school auction is in the goods. We asked our community to share what items have been big hits recently. Hands down, some of the best auction items are special events for the kids (like being principal for a day) or a special outing with a teacher. The bonus? Most of these auction items will not cost your group a cent, and they can be last-minute additions to your event. It’s also worth thinking about what items won’t work at your event. In general, items with a narrow appeal (calling for very specific tastes) or those that are perceived to have limited value (a one-hour consultation with a financial expert no one has heard of) typically won’t do well. Here’s a selection of school auction items that tend to work: A behind-the-scenes tour with the custodian. The kids get to go in the basement, see the boiler room, the kitchen, and other off-limits places in the school. Kids love it! —Andrea D. 1 A school T-shirt signed by the staff. It was almost free [to create] and one of the favorites! Another favorite was a Saturday babysitting day offered by two teachers and a geocaching day offered by another teacher. —Suzanna F. Teachers donate [a lunch with students like] a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. These are priceless! There are arguments over them because they are so popular! —Crystal H. A teacher donated a movie afternoon for five kids. This year, we’re doing a Star Wars-theme party for 20 kids on a half-day. We will provide lunch and activities. —Angela E. We offered lunch with firemen and policemen and tours of their stations. —Brandy R. We always do really well with gift baskets [with swag] from our local "feeder" high schools. As a Catholic elementary school, they are always looking for ways to win over kids with swag! Parents love them, too! —Amy J. One of our grandmas made a T-shirt quilt with some of our school’s old T-shirts. That was nice this year. —Tori C. Lunch with a teacher and one friend. The teachers don’t mind buying a pizza and spending 30 minutes with students. —Tanya K. And here’s a list of what may not work so well for school auctions: Artwork done by amateurs (other than the school’s own students). There’s no emotional connection. Collectibles with a narrow appeal, like figurines, decorative glassware, or coins. Anything used, unless it’s antique and obviously valuable. It’s an auction, not a yard sale. Certificates for partial value, like offering $100 off a service. Homemade items, unless they are of exceptional quality or have a connection to the families at the school. Anything with a lot of fine print—it’s too hard for your guests to digest the information during the auction. Anything that might be perceived as having restrictions to it. This one’s particularly important if you are auctioning vacations. Parents don’t want to get stuck with a getaway weekend that they can only take advantage of during a few time slots during the year. For more help with school auctions, check out these resources: 148 Silent Auction Ideas and More School auction clip art Ultimate Donation List Silent auction bid sheet Live auction bid sheet (exclusively for PTO Today Plus members) Originally posted in 2015 and updated regularly.
  • Ultimate Donation List: Get the Help You Need for Auction Planning

  • Auction Success: Finesse Those Final Moments of Your Event

  • 20 Ideas for Theme Baskets for PTOs and PTAs

    Take a creative approach to your next basket raffle or silent auction.
  • Auction Success: The Importance of Saying Thanks to Donors

  • From the News: 3 Ideas To Add Pizazz to Traditional Events

  • 6 Simple Ideas To Improve Your School Auction

  • Your Best Auction Resources

  • Ultimate Donation List: A Key Tool for Your Auction Planning

  • How To Wow Your Community With Beautiful Auction Baskets

  • Finding Auction Donations for Your Fundraiser

    The success of your auction depends on the quality of your items. Here's how to get great items at all price points.
  • 5 Trends To Help Your Auction Shine

    Whether your annual auction needs a fresh angle or you're just starting out, these tools and approaches can improve your results.
  • My Tip of the Week: My Best Auction Tip

    Your group loses when you have really hot silent auction items. The winner shouldn't be the person with the fastest pencil.
  • Last Minute School Auction Tips

    Last minute tips from our articles, message boards and file exchange to take care of your auction's final details.
  • Election Season Gotchas: How to Avoid Transition Trauma

  • My Tip of the Week: Make Your School Auction A Successful Community Event

  • Parent Groups in the News Round-up 4/22/11

    With budget cuts plaguing schools across the country, many parent groups are looking to auctions to bring in the big money. The articles in this week's news round-up demonstrate how PTOs and PTAs are getting more creative with their approach to school auctions, with impressive results:
  • My Tip of the Week: Hot Items for Your Auction

    Gearing up for a fall fundraising auction? If yes, then you're likely in "acquisition mode," where your volunteers are scrambling for donations that you can auction off. That's fine, and I totally see the value in getting $20 for the dry cleaning gift card you got for free. But if you want a really successful, memorable auction, focus more on what I call "stuff you can't get at Target."
  • Online Auction Tips From the Pros

    We’ve partnered with BiddingForGood to offer two webinars about online auctions! Attendance is free for one or both of these presentations, at 2 p.m. on Nov. 9 and Nov. 16.
  • My Tip of the Week: Three Quick Auction Tips

    I have school auctions on my brain this week as we prepare for the auction at my children's school this Friday night. With that in mind, I'll give you three quick tips from my experience as an observer of auctions around the country and as a long-time attendee, donor, and buyer at our own auction.
  • Learn How to Maximize Your Online Auction & More About Mobile Bidding

    Take part in this webinar for a more advanced look into maximizing the potential of your online auction, including the most recent technological development - mobile bidding.
  • Auction "Pros" Raise Big Dollars

    An online auction and gala evening netted more than $250,000 for this elementary school PTA.
  • School Auctions: Make Them Fun and Festive

    Tips for success, frequently asked questions, and top ways to increase profits for your next school auction event.
  • Economy Affects Auctions

    In tough economic times, nonprofit auction planners need to start early and be creative, according to a survey by an online auction company.
  • EBay Shuts Down PTA Auction

    Parents at Deer Park Elementary in Tampa, Fla., had big plans to raise money for the 5th grade trip to Universal Studios Florida through an eBay auction. What they didn’t count on was being shut down by eBay.
  • Auction Makeover

    By turning its long-time auction into a more upscale, innovative event, one PTO took profits—and parent enthusiasm—through the roof.
  • 9 Keys to Auction Success

    Whether it's small or large, these basic steps will make your auction a hit from start to finish.
  • School Auction Planning FAQs

    Answers to key questions about organizing and running a successful school auction.
  • Fundraiser Ratings: What's Right for You?

    A comparison of various fundraisers based on the amount of work needed, the potential rewards, and other key factors.
  • The Power of the "Big Idea"

    A high-profile goal or signature event will rally your school community and build excitement.
  • The Fundraising Myth

    "Fundraising fatigue" isn't a national trend that you can't fight. It's a problem that can be addressed by rethinking the way you conduct fundraisers.
  • School Auction Gold: Student Art Projects

    Projects created by elementary school students brought in more than $8,000 for a New York City parent group.
  • Score With a Golf Fundraiser

    If you have the resources to get started, running a golf tournament can really pay off.
  • Fundraising Makes It Happen

    Fundraising shouldn't be your group's main focus. But fundraising the right way can make a significant difference in how well you're able to fulfill your mission.
  • Auction Action Plan

    Secrets the pros use to turn even small auctions into highly profitable big-dollar fundraisers.
  • Funding Our Playground

    How one PTA met its goal of raising $40,000 in a single year to update the school playground.
  • Figuring Finances for Events

    How to build a simple cost model and estimate the start-to-finish finances for your group's new events.
  • Keys to Fundraising Success

    Taking a businesslike approach to fundraising can lead to higher profits, less burnout, and better parent involvement.
  • Make Local Businesses a Resource

    With the right approach, companies in your neighborhood can become great partners for fundraisers and other events.
  • Auction Admission $$

    How much should you charge for admission to your annual auction? Lots of opinions in this thread of our Discussion Forum. Jump in!
  • High-end Auction

    Some unique items up for grabs at this PTO auction.