At our P&C... online auctions

OnlineAuctionwithCaptionSMThe silent auction is a feature of many school fetes. You know how it works: local businesses donate items or vouchers and fete visitors view them and offer up a bid. By the end of the fete, you have a ‘winner’ for each item and collect the money, all of which is profit (for donated items). Some schools buy items to include, or convince businesses to donate one item for each that they purchase.

The problem with this though as Alex Frawley, a P&C volunteer from Torrens school, explained is that “people get overwhelmed at the fete and the traditional silent auction gets missed amid everything else that is going on.” Sometimes it is hard to realise the full value of everything you have on offer.

So this year, her P&C decided to move the auction out of the fete and online.

“I didn’t want to do it,” admits Alex. “I thought that it would be a waste of my time. But I have to eat my hat. It was a raging success!”

Alex used an online auction site called 32Auctions but others exist too, such as ALLBIDS, GalaBid, Bidding Owl, and Givergy.

According to Alex, the best thing about it was that it was “very light on volunteer time.” With volunteers increasingly pushed for time, that has to be a big plus!

“It was very user friendly. For each item, I added a photo and typed in a quick description. It only took around an hour to set up the whole auction page.”

Once the site was ready to go, it was advertised in the school newsletter and the P&C posted links to it on their Facebook page and encouraged parents to share it. They must have done so, because soon there were buyers clicking in and adding their bids from all over Canberra. There is potentially a bigger audience online than at your school fete, so more ‘niche’ items are able to find a buyer.

“It was a great way to use all the donated items that might not appeal to everyone, things that you might not want to put into a raffle,” Alex explained.

“The site gathered the winners’ email addresses so at the end all I had to do was email them and arrange for them to pay into the P&C account and then pick up the item from the school. That was only maybe another hour’s work”

“The site — 32 auctions — was 5 stars all the way and completely free for the package I used.”

There are other features offered by 32 auctions which attract a fee. For example, you can pay for the site to coordinate payment by paypal or credit card, or for the ‘bids to date’ to be printed out so that you can finish the auction at a fete or other event.

“I will certainly do it again next year and make it bigger, based on it being such a success this year,” said Alex. “It would even be worth paying for items to put up for auction next time.”

This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 3, 2017.