A (very) long-time cow orker of mine, Brian, is running an online auction to benefit the Montessori school that he and his wife run. Since the school is located in Essex, Vermont, and the items were donated by people in the area, they’ve got a lot of things like ski passes and restaurant meals for restaurants in our area, but if you want to take a look and/or bid, feel free — all comers are welcome:
The auction lists the usual gallimaufry of items, from clothing, baby goods, meals at restaurants, ‘experiences’ such as throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, you name it. Go take a look, then come back.
Obviously, when you’re running a charity auction, you go around and bug local businesses and interested parties to see what you can get them to donate. Within reason, you take what you can get, trying to avoid having an auction that consists of nothing but grandparents’ unwanted costume jewelry. Sometimes you get good stuff. Sometimes you don’t. (I believe I once saw a “$1000 Off The Costs Of A Funeral” item up for bid, contributed by a local mortuary. Assign that to the “good stuff” or “not” category as you wish.)
The danger, of course, in running a charity auction is that the amount of time you spend begging businesses and supporters for donations is time you couldn’t spend on other activities, and sometimes, you lose money. I used to be on the board of a state non-profit which always held a silent auction at the annual conference. When we factored in how much time it took our development director to solicit and pick up donations, we flat-out lost money. (It didn’t help that none of the items up for auction were of the showstopper type; people rarely fight to be high bidder on lovely knitted caps). Result: no more annual conference auctions, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about the absence.
Last year I went to a bingo night and silent auction at a local school and one of the local bait shops had contributed a five pound bucket of live bait or nightcrawlers, your choice. The same auction offered a coupon good for $100 worth of taxidermy services. Carole won a certificate good for a deluxe auto detailing from a local shop (which, as it happened, really did make her car look like a million bucks) and I won a $50 gift card for a restaurant 45 minutes from our house that I still haven’t used. A different auction was responsible for my winding up owner of a wooden two-tiered serving platter/centerpiece that I have basically no real need for and a $50 certificate off services from the local wedding cake baker. (Some people will bid on anything.)
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen up for sale at a charity auction? Did it sell? Did you buy it?