March 2008

PTA member Julie Banks created an account for the 5th grade class and recruited parents to list the items for sale. When they later used the same computers to place bids through their personal accounts, eBay shut down the auction, citing the appearance of shilling.

When Banks contacted eBay officials to explain the nature of the fundraiser, she ran into another hurdle: The PTA had not registered for the site’s Giving Works program for nonprofits, and the listing didn’t meet the more restrictive guidelines for charity auctions that aren’t registered. The PTA completed the paperwork, and eBay reinstated the auction about a week after it was shut down.

According to Banks, the auction raised only about half of the $4,000 goal; she notes, however, that sales improved after the St. Petersburg Times wrote about the snafu.

Company spokeswoman Catherine England recommends that parent groups considering similar auctions familiarize themselves with the guidelines first. “EBay has a variety of policies in place for individuals who are new to our marketplace or haven’t sold items...through eBay Giving Works before,” she says. “Learning how the site works up front can prevent issues from popping up after their items have already been listed.”

Other companies that offer similar online auction services include Bid4Funds, cMarket, and ReadySetAuction.