Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Fundraising Was Easy (Well, Sorta)

As any of you who have read my blog for any length of time know, I am the PTO president at the preschool Little Miss attends (because I can't say no - seriously...).  And part of not being able to say no means that I ended up taking on way more roles than just the presidency.

After four years of this (I technically have nine hats this year), I'm a little bit burned out, but there are definitely things that make it all worthwhile.  I *love* seeing the difference we can make in the school.  Some of the performers we've brought in this year have been fantastic and really well received.  At our most recent event, a mom came over to hug each of the women who were working the event to thank us and tell us how grateful she was for all we do. 

And then there are the "big" events.  Granted, our eensy weensy budget means that our big fundraiser is a drop in the bucket compared to what most elementary schools around us make on their small events.  But for us, it's a big deal. 

We just completed our big event of the year, and we tried something new this year.  Part of our challenge is taht we have a morning preschool and afternoon preschool and do our events during the day so the kids can participate.  That leaves us with two choices: either do a silent auction and hope people will provide their bids in advance or make it all raffle and hope that lots and lots of people buy tickets.

We've tried a couple of different things and had various challenges:

Doing a silent auction at the event leaves morning (and working) parents frustrated that they didn't "get" to bid at the end.

Doing a "super" raffle for $5 tickets doesn't generate the same level of revenue per item as the silent auction had.

Last year, we looked at potentially doing an online auction for our more "special" items and keeping the remainder as a raffle.  We found a few sites that offer the service of creating online auctions for charities.  However, they charge a (for us) hefty upfront fee and also take a good portion of the proceeds (fifteen percent for one site I considered - briefly).  We'd heard that eBay also offered charity auctions, but we couldn't get a straight answer from them on what to do.  So last year, we stayed the course.

This year, I was convinced that I could figure out the eBay thing.  And I did.  Registering to be recognized as an official charity was actually pretty easy once I figured it out.  From there, we receive a credit for our listing fees, provided that all the proceeds from the auction benefit our recognized 501(c)3.

So we listed our special thirteen items.  And crossed our fingers (some of us - ahem, me - aren't so familiar with using eBay).

Today was the day when items started to close.  I kept hitting the refresh button, hoping to see a flurry of bidding at the end that would take our items from fire sale prices to we have a chance at helping to fund a new playground prices.  And for the most part, they did.

It was pretty cool watching the price on a play membership go from $40 this morning to the closing $147.50.  And in total, we have raised just over $1,100, which brings our fundraiser total to almost $4,500.  This is significantly higher than what we had last year - and most schools in our area are seeing fundraiser declines of twenty or more percent.

This?  This is a good feeling.  Even more cool was seeing some of the winning bids being from outside the school - people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to support us or potentially even know about us.  It's a total win-win situation, and we'll definitely be doing this again next year.  The chatter amongst the teachers and the parents has been very supportive, which is great.

We did learn a couple things though....

#1 Don't make the auctions end near the end of the school day.  Aim for mid-evening.  I'm not quite sure how to do this since eBay started the auctions after the verified them, but there has to be a way to ensure they end in the 6-9pm hour.  I have a feeling we would have had several items bid up if we'd done that.

#2 Encourage winning bidders that we know to send in checks instead of using PayPal.  As great as PayPal is in terms of convenience and speed of payment, they do take a percent of the proceeds which we can avoid by collecting payment directly.  The difference isn't huge, but for us, every penny counts.

My term is almost up, and this was my last major responsibility.  You have no idea how happy it makes me that it was a success - and hey, if anyone else is out there trying to figure out how to do a fundraiser with an online auction, let me know.  I'm planning to bring some of the info I learned to our next districtwide presidents' council meeting so they can take advantage of it, too.

I'm just going to suggest they make plans for the day and time the auctions are scheduled to end so that they don't end up staring at the screen watching the minutes ohhhhh so slowly tick down and demanding to the screen that the bids magically go up.

Not that I was doing that or anything. Nope, not me.

(And no, no one asked me nor paid me nor gave me anything to post about this.  I'm just thrilled that we raised probably $600 more than we would have had we not done the online auction.)

PS Need a fun outfit for the boy in your life?  Check out my Parigi Fashion giveaway.

I also have a family pizza party that I'm giving away here.


Alexis AKA MOM May 12, 2010 at 11:47 PM  

Oh wow that is awesome that it was more than previous.

Good Job!!!

Unknown May 13, 2010 at 6:20 AM  

I'm glad that this was a success. That's a great idea.

WeaselMomma May 13, 2010 at 6:25 AM  

That last comment was actually mine. I hate when the Weasels change my settings.

Karen May 13, 2010 at 7:28 AM  

You can schedule when your auction starts. Generally it costs you a few cents to delay the start time, but I've done it before. Congrats on the awesome success!

Pat May 13, 2010 at 12:57 PM  

Wow! This is a great way to raise funds for your school. I'm going to print this out and give it to our local elementary school's PTO president. Thanks for the explanation and helpful hints.

HappyMom May 13, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

Congrats with your auction. I chaired the auction at my DD's kindergarten - fun but a lot of work. Great that you got yours on-line. Thanks for the tips about eBay.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall May 14, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

smart post,
best wishes!

Claudya Martinez May 14, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

Congratulations! I think the ebay idea is excellent because it really does open it up to people that wouldn't normally be offering you money. Brilliant.

Mrs4444 May 15, 2010 at 10:48 PM  

You're amazing. Can't wait to hear what your next "big thing" is :)

Michelle May 17, 2010 at 10:43 PM  

Alexis - I know. I'm thrilled! With other schools down 20%, this rocks for us.

Rosie - The best ideas are born of desperation, aren't they? Bad Weasels, bad.

Karen - Yeah... I learned that you can do it somehow. I just haven't figured that part out yet. That's for next year's chair to deal with ;)

Pat - Absolutely. I'm taking it to ours on Wednesday. I love how easy this was and how people who couldn't *be* there were still able to participate!

HappyMom - Definitely a lot of work. After four years chairing ours, I'm burned out, but the online piece helped a ton. I hope more people use it.

Jingle - Awww, thanks.

Unknown Mami - Absolutely. Almost twenty percent of our items went to people who aren't from our school. And others bid who didn't win - helping to increase the overall funds, too!

Mrs4444 - Amazing? HA! But ummm I'm secretary at the elementary school next year. I successfully fought being president there. After having made it to a single PTO meeting. Eek! And I also plan to do some volunteering at a hippotherapy clinic :)

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