Looking for inspiration in 2017? Here are a number of profitable and effective ideas we’ve gathered from around the world:

1. Get Sponsorships for your School Auction
(based on ideas contributed by John Chase of Greater Giving)

With many P&C committees or School auction groups it’s common to put a large percent of focus on item procurement and event night logistics. Gathering the best possible items and creatively packaging them leaves a lasting impression on guests and helps keep winning bidders happy. However; this strategy of mainly targeting your auction can push the revenue section of sponsorship to the back burner where it becomes easily overlooked. Sponsorships can account for a large percentage of dollars raised at a fundraising event and in many cases help underwrite event night costs.

Giving local companies the chance to showcase their support in front of your donors is a win-win opportunity. Many local businesses, like insurance agents and real estate brokers, love the opportunity to showcase their brand with a school-based organization they care strongly about.

Here are tips for creating extra sponsorship value:

Use paddles for your live auction. Put the bidder number on one side and the local sponsor’s logo on the other. When a bid is made in your live event, the auctioneer sees the bid number but the rest of the room sees the sponsor’s logo. Take this idea to the next level by asking the local sponsor if they will make an extra donation to your cause for every person at the event who brings their paddle into the store.

What’s the password. Sell your tickets online pre-event and add in your confirmation receipt show a sponsor logo and include a secret password or phase specific to that sponsor. Each person who says the password at check in gets an extra raffle ticket or free drink. Example: “Do you have the password?” “West Value Credit Union where you are always #1”.

And here are some ideas of school auction sponsors:

  • Local restaurants
  • Car Dealerships
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Insurance Agents
  • Law Firms
  • Businesses of parents at your school


2. Helicopter or Drone Drop
Start with a large open piece of ground and either paint a grid on the grass or pin one out using string. Uniquely number each square in the grid (perhaps the easiest way to do that is to use letters along the top and numbers down the side, so that you can simply identify individual grid squares as, for example, C12 or D7 without having to individually label each square).

Sell each square. Then enlist the aid of a helicopter company (if budgets or connections allow) or, perhaps more realistically, someone who owns a drone that has the capability to remotely release its cargo. On the day, arrange for the helicopter or drone to circle the field a few times and then drop a bag onto the grid area. The person who bought the square that the bag lands in wins a prize.

3. Trick or Treat Cards
Have your classes create some cards with crazy, embarrassing things for people to do such as dancing Gangnam style or singing “old MacDonald had a farm”. Have someone pick a card and read it. Then they can either do what the card says or make a donation.

4. Do You Want Fries With That?
(based on the strategies used by McDonalds and others to increase average revenue per customer)

Increase the average revenue from every supporter by offering matching purchases or specifically asking them if they want to donate an equal amount to support the school.

5. Top Tips for Fundraising Auction Success
(based on tips provided by Kathy Kingston of Kingston Auction Company)

Fundraising Auctions today are one of the most lucrative and exciting ways to raise more money for schools and nonprofit organizations. I am passionate about auctions since these benefit events offer an outstanding way to involve your whole community, increase awareness about your cause, engage parents, alumni and donors and to have more fun!

As a professional benefit auctioneer and consultant, I’ve raised millions of dollars across the country for schools and nonprofits using auctions for over 29 years. Use my top five strategies to take your school auction to the next level.

(a): Fill Your Venue With Power Bidders and New Donors

First, fill your venue with guests who have the capacity to bid and give generously at your auction beyond just buying a ticket to your gala. Create an “Audience Development Team” whose sole purpose is to identify, invite and cultivate guests who have means and influence to generously support you before, during and even after your benefit auction. Remember the first rule of fundraising: “People give to people – not causes.” So be sure to personally invite and follow up!

(b): Focus on Fundraising First

An often overlooked mistake is to plan your auction fundraiser like it’s your party, business function or even worst a wedding. Remember, your school auction is often one of your biggest fundraisers of the year. Show how your guests can make a difference for students and learning. Showcase your school mission throughout your auction. Using compelling video, brief inspiring remarks and other communications, envelop your audience in the cause and show how their bidding and contributions transforms your students and your community.

(c): Add an Inspiring Fund A Need Special Appeal

In addition to your Silent and Live Auction, include a Fund a Need Special Appeal. Let’s face it, not everyone wants or needs a live or silent auction item. Create this opportunity for everyone to contribute to your great cause at a level that is meaningful to them. Ignite generosity with a well conducted, inspiring Fund A Need that that can literally double your live auction profits in just 10 minutes!

(d): Match Your Auction Items to Your Audience

First, be sure to match your auction items to the unique profile of what your auction guests really want. Second, LESS is more. Reduce the number of auction items and focus on fewer unique items that produce bigger results. Make sure your organization procures hot auction items that keep driving excitement and interest – items that fulfill fantasies and dream vacations and experiences that are unique to your supporters. And remember to consider adding consignment items to complement your donated items to add excitement and dollars.

(e): Don’t Leave Money in the Room

By far THE most expensive mistake you can make is using a volunteer amateur auctioneer. Why risk it? Retaining an experienced professional fundraising auctioneer can increase your net auction profits from 20% to over 500% immediately. Uniquely experienced and dedicated to maximizing fundraising, a professional benefit auctioneer does not cost — it pays!

6. Value Silence
(an interesting concept from WE.org)

Here’s a simple but powerful fundraising opportunity that asks students (and teachers if they are game) to refrain from speaking out loud.

Collect pledges for every hour that the students go silent.

7. Collect Change
Create an ongoing fundraising campaign that asks students to bring in their pocket change once a week for a term. All coins should be deposited in a large, transparent container (carefully locked away in the school safe when not on display). With every coin donated, students may submit an estimate of how much money will be in the container at the end of the term. Closest estimate wins a prize.