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!

by Rose Hamilton


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

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