How To Include Everyone In Your School Auction, Part 1: Ticket Pricing

Ticket Pricing For School Auctions

Ticket pricing is a common topic when I talk with school auction chairs. Whether it’s for a private or public school, our customers want to make sure that their school auction is inclusive and respectful of differences in socioeconomic status within their school community.  We all know that an auction can be a lot of fun to attend when you can bid freely on whatever catches your eye.  But we also know that they can be perceived as exclusive and elitist.

Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of great ideas from customers on how to combat this perception. The volunteer auction chairs we work with are respectful, inclusive, and also quite brilliant.   We’ll divide these up into two parts: here, we’ll deal with making sure everyone can attend your event, and in Part 2, we’ll talk about making sure there are ways for all of your guests to participate once the event starts.

There is a temptation to just offer free or really cheap tickets to your event – but for most schools, you’ll need that pre-event revenue to help cover the hard costs of your auction. You really want the parents who can pay for a full-price ticket to do so.  So here are two key strategies that work well:

  1. Early-Bird Pricing – start your ticket sales a month earlier than you would normally, and advertise that for the first 4 weeks, all tickets will be sold at a discounted price. (If you are using the online ticket-sales feature built into the SchoolAuction.net software, this is easy to set up – just create a ticket type for the discounted ticket, and set the date range that that ticket type will be available.)
  2. Free Tickets For Volunteers – At the same time, announce that the auction team is looking for volunteers to help plan and run the event, and will make free tickets available to anyone who wants to help out.  Don’t worry about limiting this, at least initially; almost every auction chair I’ve ever spoken to could use more volunteer help.

Increasing the Value of Free Tickets for Volunteers: the Volunteer Swap

The problem with giving free tickets to your volunteers may be obvious: anyone who is working on event night (setting up the silent auction, checking guests in and out, etc.) doesn’t exactly have time to enjoy the event – that free ticket isn’t a terribly valuable reward if they can’t sit down for dinner or check out the silent auction.

The solution?   Swap your auction-night volunteer crew with one from another school’s auction team. Find another school in your district that is holding their auction on a different weekend, and offer to send 10-12 volunteers to their event to help run the event, in exchange for the same number of volunteers from their team coming to your auction to help you.  That way, those 10-12 volunteers get to attend their own school’s auction as guests and enjoy the evening.

Where should you look for a school to establish a volunteer-swap with?  Start in your cluster – if you’re at a high-school, talk to the middle-schools or junior-high schools that feed in to your school; if you’re at an elementary, talk to preschools in your area.  If you’re a SchoolAuction.net customer, you can also contact us – we probably have other customers in your city that are asking the same question.

Next: Procurement strategies for inclusive auctions