‘Damers First School moved to a brand-new site in Poundbury in 2017. With planned garden space, the site provided a great opportunity to expand our environmental work and Damers is now one of the country’s leading eco schools.
The PTA regularly raises £7,000 to £8,000 a year through events such as bingo nights and summer and Christmas fairs. However, we wanted to hold a one-off fundraiser that would bring in a lot of money in one go – and that’s how we came up with the idea of an auction. For it to be a success, we knew we had to have something specific to fundraise for. The school’s eco coordinator, Edd Moore, had helped organise an auction at his previous school and came up with the idea of raising money for a Ridan Food Waste Composter. Not only would it reduce the amount of waste the school created, it would also teach children the importance of composting and recycling, and help our flourishing vegetable patches! It was quite an original thing to buy and I think a lot of those who donated auction lots liked the eco angle.
A local auctioneer gave us advice and provided a team to make sure the auction ran smoothly on the night, which was a huge help. We also made the most of every contact we could think of, and were lucky that a member of staff knew a lot of people who could donate a significant amount. We had some really big draws: a tour of the Highgrove gardens, lunch at a well-known restaurant, festival tickets, a walk-on part in Doc Martin, a yacht charter, and a painting by a local artist. We also had things like fitness sessions, massages, will-writing services and wine tasting.
We ended up with so many donations that we used some of them in a silent auction alongside the main event. For this, we handed out a list of lots that guests could bid for. At the end of the evening, we announced who’d been successful.
We raised just over £5,000, which was incredible and far exceeded our expectations. Several factors helped ensure our success. We marketed the auction to the local community, rather than just families at the school. Ticket prices were low but still included a drink and canapés (we then sold alcohol separately). We invested in an iZettle card reader so people paid on the night for their lots but could use a card.
We ran an online auction beforehand on auctionofpromises.com, which meant that we had a starting bid for every lot. This made life easier for the auctioneer and also ensured that every lot sold.
Running an auction is an awful lot of work but it is worth it when you can raise such a large amount of money in one go – I probably wouldn’t do it every year though!’
Sophie Duke, PTA vice-chair, Damers First School, Poundbury, Dorset (450 pupils)