Are You Fundraising For Your Kid’s Private School? Read on!

Auction Items

When my daughter was in 1st grade, I co-chaired the auction at The Willows School. This is the school’s biggest annual fundraiser and I knew it would be a lot of work. So, I was thrilled when I found out who my co-chairs would be. They were a talented group of professionals who had skills beyond my wildest dreams. We worked together for about nine months from start to finish. When the event was over and the totals were tallied we raised more than $200,000. It was like a full-time job for many of us and at times our nerves frayed and stress took over. Yet in the end, the event was lovely and successful. We took risks by moving the event to a new venue.  We solicited items the school had never auctioned previously. We drank, bid, ate and partied the night of the auction. A fun time was had by all.

 

Here’s what I learned.

  • School auctions (private and public) range from fancy to low-key and everything in between.
  • Create a great theme and tagline and use to brand the event by ensuring that all materials related to the event carry the theme throughout. 
  • Use a professional graphic designer for the invitation and collateral materials. If you don’t have one at your school, inquire if there are any parents with expertise or contacts in this area. 
  • Don’t be afraid to try new ideas. Fundraising is about what has worked in the past and fun, new ideas. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be professional and uncomplicated.
  • Look at the websites of schools similar to yours. What type of auctions/galas have they done? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to fundraising. Best practices are very useful for school auctions.
A live auction item from the year I co-chaired Willows School auction

Live auction item

  • Create a schedule that takes you from the current date through the date of the event. Stick to it. Schedule regular committee meetings. Keep an online folder and binder of all your materials (this can be given to the next parent who chairs the event).
  • Make a list of what the school will not accept for donations (used items, etc.). Otherwise, your auctions risks becoming a dumping place for items that have been stored in somebody’s garage for the past decade. This isn’t a garage sale!
  • Start soliciting auction items by putting together a team of experienced volunteers who have been successful in past years.
  • Find the best person to ask a family for a donation if it’s not you. Often being asked by a friend means the difference between a ‘yes’ and an unreturned call.
  • Start by asking for donations from the vendors where you shop–and ask well in advance of your event. You’ll be surprised how willing they are to help their customers.
  • Learn what will/will not sell at your school. Restaurant gift cards are always a hit. Professional services are a harder sell. Include a mix of high end and affordable items so everyone will come and shop! Don’t accept junk like used shoes, even if they are designer. It lowers the quality of your auction.
Live auction item

Live auction item

  • Party Books are a fabulous way to raise money. These are parent-hosted events like dinner parties, wine tastings, lunch events, kids events that each attendee pays to attend and the proceeds benefit the school.
  • Avoid offers of discounted items and used items. You want full donations and new good.
  • Create a compelling, professional letter with the school’s letterhead and all the information a donor will need.
  • Review the school’s database of donors (if it exists). If not, create a list of potential businesses, friends of the school that you will solicit by mail, email and in person.
  • Book your event location as far in advance as possible.
  • Consider how you will publicize the event to school parents and stakeholders like alumni. What’s the best way to reach them? How many times will you contact them about the event?
  • Create a website, private Facebook Group or a page on the school’s website for all auction information (donation forms, volunteers needed, event date, location, items needed, etc.). Make it easy for parents to find information about the event!
  • There are good software programs specifically for school auctions/fundraisers.
  • Remember that you’re a volunteer and so is the committee. If you get overwhelmed, ask the school for more volunteers.
  • Be kind to volunteers who donate and solicit items, even if the donation is not what you hoped for.
  • Have fun, meet friends, work hard and relax when the event is over.

 

Here’s my post about private school galas on The Daily Truffle. (Also published on the Huffington Post.)

 

Check out A Mom’s Guide To School Fundraising. Sarah Barrett, an experienced mom, covers everything from lemonade stands and bake sales to auctions. And, she has an AUCTION SUCCESS KIT!

Private School Auctions: Family Paid $50K For Kindergarten Art Project, Now Suing NYC School

 

Who doesn't love their kid's art?

Who doesn’t love their kid’s art? My son made this and I think its priceless.

When I co-chaired the Willows School auction, the night of the event, bidding went very well, exceeding our expectations. Wine was flowing and parents were having fun. As the night went on, a dad at our table had a bit too much to drink and spilled a bottle of champagne all over the table without even noticing. Lucikly, I didn’t get wet. My husband sweetly bought me a pair of diamond earrings I really “needed.” There was proxy bidding, but nothing got out of control. Bidding for popular items was spirited and the competition was friendly.

 

At school auctions, parents who purchased a big-ticket item occasionally get buyer’s remorse and try to avoid picking up the item. The event co-chairs discreetly encourage the buyer to pick up the item or they find another buyer. Sometimes the project involved is a kid’s class art project and the buyer decided that $5K is too much for little Lulu and her classmates’ self-portraits. I can’t imagine bidding for a class project going so wrong it ends up in a lawsuit! But, then again, $50K for a kindergarten art project is on the high side…

 

This is a must-read story about an expensive NYC private elementary school auction involving a proxy bidder who spent $50K of a wealthy family’s money on an over-priced kindergarten art project. The parents are suing the school and removed their kid.

Click on link below for story:

Wealthy Parents Sue NYC Private School Claiming They Were Tricked Into Buying $50K Kindergarten Fingerpainting. (Yahoo)

Fund(rais)ing L.A.’s Private Elementary Schools on The Daily Truffle and Huffington Post*

I’m so thrilled to be guest blogging over at The Daily Truffle, one of my favorite sites. The site is written by private school graduates from L.A. (Harvard-Westlake, John Thomas Dye and others) and calls itself A Los Angeles Social Diary. – Christina Simon

 

Here’s an excerpt of my piece :

Springtime in L.A. is the season when private grade schools host auctions, gala events, and swank soirees at fancy hotels, studio lots, and LA country clubs designed to raise additional funds to pad the $25,000 base fee of sending kids to ‘John Dye’, Buckley, Curtis, the ‘Center’ and all the other early educational top LA tickets.

 

That might sound high but the $25k tuition doesn’t even cap the operating budget of any private elementary school and additional money is always needed for teacher salaries, employee benefits, school supplies, and financial aid.

To continue reading, click on the The Daily Truffle

*This piece is also featured on The Huffington Post today (Feb. 25).