9 Keys to School Auction Success

Keys to School Auction Success

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


  1. Start early. Begin initial planning at least six months in advance, even for a small auction.

  2. Create a work plan. Auction planning is very systematic, which makes it easy to learn, but there are still many, many tasks that must be done—even for a small auction.

  3. Recruit well and delegate. The amount of work involved in an auction demands delegation. Gather a team of volunteers whom you can trust to work on their own, with your guidance.

  4. Stay well-organized. Document everything, use email and periodic meetings to keep the committee informed and on task, always look ahead to the next tasks, and take photos of the event setup for future reference.

  5. Gather plenty of donations. Create lots with a range of values to broaden the auction’s appeal. Start early; some donors require several months’ notice. Bundle related items into packages, and be creative. (Download PTO Today's list of 112 Suggested Auction Items from the File Exchange.)

    148 silent auction ideas for items to sell (plus 7 to skip)

  6. Build excitement. Start promoting your event far in advance. List high-value and highly desirable items in your promotions.

  7. Make the auction the focus. Pairing it with a family event such as a carnival can reduce the success of your auction. Bidders will get distracted from bidding if there are other activities going on, and precious volunteer resources will be stretched too thin.

  8. Use a professional auctioneer. A professional knows how to keep the bidding moving up, how to build anticipation, how to coax reluctant bidders, and when it’s time to close bidding. Use a local celebrity as master of ceremonies, not as auctioneer.

  9. Stagger silent auction bid closing times. This builds excitement and a sense of urgency several times during the event. Plus, bidders will continue to bid on open items if they lost out on earlier items.

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