How to Hold an Auction Fundraiser

Student trip fundraiser auction

An auction makes for a fun and exciting student trip fundraiser. (photo via flickr)

“One dollar bid, now two, now two, will ya give me two, two dollar bid, now three, now three, will ya give me three? Going once, going twice, SOLD, to the lady in the blue sweater!”

In many ways, an auction is the perfect fundraiser for student trips. It brings your community together for a unique event, it gets publicity for local businesses, and it raises money for students traveling on your tour.

The basic idea of an auction is to invite people together for a night of bidding on merchandise and services. Auctions can be one of two kinds: a standard “English auction” or a silent auction. Below are some tips on both versions.

Time to prepare: 1-2 months

Money up front: $0-200 (cost will depend on whether you need to rent a sound system or lighting equipment)

Collecting your items
The first thing you need to do before holding an auction is to get the items that people will bid on. The best way to do this is to talk to your local businesses.

1. Spread the word to local business owners that your students will be going door-to-door to collect items to be bid on. You can either announce a designated day or contact the businesses individually to schedule a time.

2. Tell each business they will be advertised at the event and listed as a sponsor for their donation.

3. Remember auction items don’t have to be limited to material objects. A ride to school, a night of babysitting, or yard work can be just as valuable.

4. Try to get local businesses to donate refreshments you can sell at the event to raise some extra money.

Holding an “English auction”
English auction is just the term for the typical auction everyone  is likely familiar with, where an auctioneer calls out the rising price as spectators place higher and higher bids. It can get quite exciting and dramatic. Here’s what you need to do for a standard English auction:

1. Find someone to run the show (an auctioneer). If you can find a real auctioneer, that’s fun. Or if you can find someone with a sense of humor to entertain the crowd, that’s just as good.

2. Make numbered paddles to hand out to the bidders (the numbers help keep track of who purchases which item). Feel free to be creative with these! For student tours to New York, make paddles shaped like the Empire State Building. For student trips to Italy, make paddles with the Colosseum. You get the idea.

3. For the night of the event, pick one person to record bidder information and to settle all money transactions after the auction is over.

Holding a silent auction
With a silent auction, there is no big show. The items are put on display with bidding sheets alongside them, and people come by and write down their bids.

1. Secure an area to display the auction items and set up times for “open bidding.”

2. Place bidding sheets next to each item. Community members write down bids (and can place more than one to outbid one another). At a designated time, the bidding ends, and whoever wrote down the highest bid wins the item.

At the end of a successful auction night—whether standard or silent—everyone goes home happy. For the people who won their bids, they’ve got themselves a new prize. For everyone who attended, it was a fun night doing something a little bit different with friends and neighbors. And of course for you and your students, you’ve raised money towards your amazing domestic or international EF Educational Tour. Going once, going twice, sold!

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