‘Friends of Burford School runs a biennial big-ticket ball event. Last year, we secured Bisham Abbey as our venue ten months in advance, agreeing a three-course meal for £30 per head. As a charity we aren’t charged for venue hire.
We issued a “save the date” notice nine months before the date, and tickets went on sale six months in advance – selling out within a week! We planned to offer 120 tickets, but due to high demand we had to book a second dining room to fit a further 60 guests. We charged £60 per head, which included a glass of prosecco, a three-course meal with coffee and petit fours and half a bottle of wine. After dinner, guests enjoyed a live band, dancing, bar and a photo booth. We paid £750 for the band and £350 for the photo booth.
A business friend of the school loaned us a red carpet, up-lights and poseur tables for the bar area, plus microphones and a PA system. A parent of the school designed our posters and event artwork free of charge and a local printer gave us a discount on printing.
We ran an auction during the ball, using Jumblebee (jumblebee.co.uk). While this wasn’t the cheapest option, they offered a great package, including lots of support. Jumblebee met us at the venue in the planning stages and gave us guidance on how to run the auction. While we were populating the website, which was easy to do, they were always on hand to help.
We approached parents and local businesses for prizes. One of our parents is an events organiser and managed to secure lots such as afternoon tea and bed-and-breakfast stays. We tried to ensure that we had a range of values, from £30 to £1,000. Two weeks before the event the auction website went live, and we encouraged people to share the link with friends via social media. We reached £7,000-worth of bids before the evening even started!
On the night, two Jumblebee staff attended to set up. We had four large screens to display the leaderboard and two tablets per table, which guests used to bid for lots. People couldn’t resist getting involved, which made life a lot easier for our compères!
Jumblebee’s presence gave the event a really professional feel. They charged £1,850, but we wouldn’t have raised half as much through the auction if we hadn’t used them. They even helped chase winners for payment after the event. The whole event raised a fantastic £14,000!’
Jo Caldwell, Member, Friends of Burford School, Marlow, Buckinghamshire (420 pupils)