Silent auctions are a great way to raise large amounts of money at once. However, they take a lot of planning and preparation. To help your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club, AIM has created the best online silent auction must-do to do list.
Where to find the best silent auction items
What would a silent auction be without goods to auction? To have a successful auction you’ll need to gather an array of desirable items to sell. There are a few places you can go to find the best silent auction items to be donated to your cause.
Restaurants and retailers are a great place to start and will often donate gift cards or certificates to charitable causes. Be sure to pick popular places that target your crowd to be sure they will auction well.
Baseball, basketball, football, and more! If you are raising money for your school’s sports team, a local or national team may want to show support by donating brand merchandise or autographed merchandise.
Is your city home to a big attraction such as an amusement park, water park, or other fun attraction that requires purchasing tickets? A couple of donated tickets could go a long way. Fun places such as these almost guarantee a good memory and are therefore attractive to your audience.
And lastly, don’t forget to look right under your nose! Fellow parents and teachers may have great items to donate that they simply no longer want, need, or have room for; such as vintage memorabilia, sports tickets, or perhaps even their time. If a parent or teacher teaches a class on art, cooking or music, a certificate for a free class could be sold at your auction.
Disclaimer: Many businesses will have a corporate policy on donations, so you may need to check their website and go through the proper channels first.
Silent auction donations; what to accept
When you open up the floor for anyone to donate items, some people may surprise you with what they bring in. To make the lives of your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club members easier, have an example list of desirable items and a list of what you won’t accept for the auction.
You’ll want to make it clear that your organization will not be accepting live animals, vehicles, goods with complicated storage requirements or high handling costs, or items you don’t believe you will be able to sell at your silent auction. The best silent auction items have to be generally desired or they are almost guaranteed not to sell on auction day.
How AIM insurance can help
Most education organizations don’t have a state-of-the-art security team or perfect tornado proof storage units to protect your property/auction items. Property Insurance can cover not only your auctionable items but your personal property as well! Popcorn machines, school store supplies, and other organization items are covered from fire, theft, vandalism, and more.
With an event this big, your Parent Teacher Group should also consider buying Event Insurance. Event Insurance will protect you from liability should someone sue you for a loss sustained at one of your events. It also provides coverage for out of pocket medical expenses if one of your volunteers, members, or attendees is injured at your event.
Prepare to give charity tax deduction receipts
When someone donates an item to your silent auction that is worth $250 or more, your organization must give them a written acknowledgment so that they can file it as a tax deduction. This acknowledgment should include your organization’s official title, a description of the item donated, and whether your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club provided any goods or services in exchange for the donated item; if so, you must provide a description and a good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services.
Don’t forget to secure your event venue
If you’re not holding the silent auction on school grounds, you’ll have to seek out a good venue. In either case, make sure you have secured any items the venue may require (such as proof of insurance) well in advance. Remember to choose a date that works best for your members, volunteers, and audience. Your venue should be large enough to hold multiple tables so that there is space to spread the selling items out, along with room for the expected number of attendees to comfortably move around and look at the merchandise.
BONUS! Before we end this blog, we would like to answer a couple of frequently asked auction questions below.
Is alcohol an acceptable auction item?
Every state has its own very specific laws about the distribution of alcohol, not to mention many schools ban it from school grounds. However, if your venue is off campus you may be allowed to auction alcohol off. Although, while you may be able to do so, we generally recommend organizations avoid auctioning off alcohol as it could create unnecessary liability. If your organization would like to pursue, we highly recommend you to contact your state alcoholic beverage commission for allowed practices in your state and local area.
Are we liable if someone gets injured participating in an activity we auction?
In most cases, it would be difficult to hold the PTA liable for a loss that resulted from an activity auctioned off by the PTA. However each claim is different, so it is best to establish that your parent teacher group is not responsible for accidents that occur post-auction. There are many suggested bidding forms which include disclaimers such as “[your group name] provides no guarantees, warranties or servicing of auction items and is not liable for any personal injury or damage to property that may result from the use of the item or service sold.” We suggest all bidding forms include this type disclaimer along with established rules.