The week before half term, instead of a normal Guides meeting, we held a silent auction as a fundraiser for local Guides and Young Leaders going on international trips this summer.
We organised it with little time to spare: we set the date a month in advance at our term planning meeting, and most of the publicity was done with less than two weeks to go. Our PR advisers would have preferred more notice, but it came off alright in the end.
If you’re unfamiliar with silent auctions, the first thing to note is that they’re not actually conducted in silence, but the bidding is done with pen and paper rather than by gesturing to an auctioneer.
The lots are laid out on tables with a bidding card next to each one, and lots of pens and pencils available. When it is announced that bidding is open, everyone is free to move around, look at the lots, and write their name and a bid price on a card if they want. If they come back to that lot later and find that someone has outbid them, they have to decide if they want to bid even higher or give up.
When the bidding closes, whoever has written down the highest bid on each lot wins it. They pay, pick up their prize and go home (hopefully) happy.
We had a wide range of lots, from small things the children could bid on with pocket money – little toys, sweets, themed goody bags that one leader put together from things she found in Poundland – to bigger prizes including pledges like babysitting and baking a cake offered by Guiding members, and vouchers and gifts kindly donated by local businesses.
I only wrote to local businesses (mostly email, a couple of letters) less than two weeks before the event, but I heard back from about 5 out of 30, which is a not bad response rate. I think the short notice worked fine for them – they were happy for someone to drop in and pick up the lot the day before. I made sure to follow up after the auction saying thanks again and letting them know how much we’d raised and that it was much appreciated.
On the night, we served tea, coffee, cake etc., and Unit Leader’s husband kindly came with his disco equipment to make announcements on the mic and play background music. Bidding was open for an hour and a half. There wasn’t a huge number of adults there – not members of the public, anyway; I think all were guiders or friends and families – but we still made a very respectable £420. I was pleased to win a haircut (I’ve had it now, and very please I am too, as it was long overdue) and a gift voucher for an art shop (haven’t used it yet, but I’m keeping it safe).
Between now and Easter, we have two more fundraising evenings coming up, because with four girls going abroad there’s quite a lot to raise. Let’s hope they go well, too.