Step-by-step guide: auction of promises
From an hour's maths tuition to a taxi service home from
the next PTA event, an 'auction of promises' is a fantastic way of
raising money for your PTA and helps get everyone, including local
To ensure maximum variety and value, consider offering a
combination of promises, products and services - this will
guarantee that there's something for everyone. And make sure you
promote the event as the more people who come along the more money
1) How, where, when?
By far the best and most enjoyable auction is one that's
organised as a big social event. Although other options include
having an auction as part of another event (a silent auction within
the Summer fete), or an online auction (there are companies that
run this in an ebay-type way). Having a bar will add to your
profits, especially given that there's a direct ratio of alcohol
consumed to money raised! It will take a good 2-3 hours, so you
might want to consider having a break mid-way with some food on
offer. Select a date that doesn't clash with anything else in the
area and make sure you get a listing in the local paper.
2) Be prepared
Firstly, elect an 'auctioneer' - someone with a big personality
who can make amusing quips, but who can also handle the rabble (and
a gavel)! They will need to call out the Lot, with a brief
description and what it's worth, then start the bidding… You will
also need several volunteers to collect details and money and
someone to run the bar/ do the food.
We can't stress enough how important a decent PA system is - you
could have complete anarchy if the auctioneer can't be heard!
On the sensible side, you will need to have public liability
insurance and undertake a simple risk assessment. If having a bar,
make sure you obtain the correct licence.
Publicise the event using PTA Print Shop. Order 10 A3
posters for just £9.95! They are editable and
professional-looking to draw in the crowds.
3) Secure the auction bids
Create a form entitled 'I am giving...' with room for a
description of the 'promise', including how much it's worth and any
exclusions (ie, a meal for two from a local restaurant, could only
be valid from Monday-Thursday). Make sure the name, address and
telephone number are included. Send this home with pupils and
encourage parents to consider what skills or services they could
offer - from redesigning someone's business cards, to having your
home electrics checked by a pro. Then look to the wider community -
contact local businesses, ex-pupils, local celebrities or your MP.
Make sure that all donations are back about 2 weeks before the
Ideas for donations can span quite a range - the weirdest we've
come across is a 'colonic irrigation' session or the best was a
villa in Italy for a week! Here's a few of the more likely offers
you can expect...
Meal for two at a local restaurant
A free taxi ride
Ironing or housework
Hobby lessons (jewellery-making, model-building)
Sport coaching (Golf, Football, Tennis)
4) Final preparations
A week before the event, give each donation a number and publish
the list - either online, by email or sent out via book bags. Keep
some of the better or more unusual offers as 'lucky dip' secret
Lots. Clarify that parents can bid beforehand if they're unable to
attend on the night.
Let the auctioneer have a good look at the list, so that
anything particularly funny can be used to keep spirits high or
preparations can be made to deal with something potentially
5) Alright on the night…
Specify the rules and that money will need to be paid on the
night or within 7 days, (it's worth warning parents beforehand so
that they come prepared). If anything has already been won through
prior bids, or if you have too many to run through on the night,
you could always save some of the least interesting for a silent
auction. Specify the Lots which will be featured and leave the best
Lot until last to finish on a high.
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