The wee ones’ preschool does a fundraiser every year in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo. Because we’re a small school with few parent volunteers, and the kids attending are preschoolers, many of which have special needs, our event is during school hours. We don’t do the fancy galas that the other schools in our district do but rather have events during the day for the am and pm classes.
We invite parents in to see the events, which includes student performances and a dance troupe from the high school. During this, we have raffles and a silent auction.
The raffles have always gone over well — including by people not connected to the school, which rocks. The silent auction garnered some negative feedback last year. Because some parents aren’t able to attend at all and others have kids only in the am classes, many parents didn’t feel it was fair because they wouldn’t be there at the end of the auction. Although we offered last year to proxy bids for people if they told us their max bid, not many people took us up on this.
This year, we tried to get a little creative and move into the digital age. Some of us thought it would be great if we could list our silent auction items online for people to bid on — no arguments of it not being fair because they weren’t there and there’s also the possibility of opening it to a wider audience for things like the three games of Cubs tickets we have.
In doing research for this, I found two companies doing online auctions that sounded like they might work. cMarket specializes in nonprofit fundraising with online auctions. They had all sorts of neat ways to do things, so I contacted them. Unfortunately, they’re not for our school. They have a $595 auction setup fee, in addition to taking a pretty hefty portion of the auction’s winning bid. I ruled them out pretty quickly.
eBay was the other possibility, as they have a nonprofit bit setup, as well. You have to vet your organization through Mission Fish and then it sounds like you can potentially list your item and get the listing fees back so long as the proceeds of the auction are for the nonprofit. Totally cool.
Of course (being the non-eBay person that I am), I had a ton of questions. I wanted to know things from: can we group our items together so people can find them easily to how long we can have the auction run since the presale brochure goes out well in advance of the fundraiser itself to how the fees truly work. I couldn’t find any of these answers to my satisfaction online, so I sent off an email listing my seven questions very clearly to eBay.
I was promised a response within 48-72 hours. I was fine with that.
I waited 48 hours. Nothing. I waited 72. I was annoyed, but I wrote it off as bad customer service and a sign that I really shouldn’t count on this working. And yes, we found an alternate solution that I think will work well — at least for this year — late last week.
A full week after I sent my email, I received a response from eBay. I was irritated that it wasn’t even close to their 72 hour promise, but I was intrigued to see what it would have to say in the hopes that I could use it for next year or at least pass the info along to other PTOs in our district.
Below is the email verbatim.
Thank you for writing eBay in regard to
We are committed to making your eBay experiences pleasant and
eBay Customer Support
Yeah. I have to say that I believe I will never be using eBay for anything. Ever. How exactly does that come even close to being helpful? Seriously?
And I had such high hopes for the potential of having an online auction. Nope, it’s a raffle ($1 per ticket) for our regular items and classroom baskets and a super raffle ($5 per ticket) for our more unique items. Here’s hoping that it works out well. We got some really great donations this year, but I know the economy is rotten.
Regardless, we will not be using eBay this year. Or next. Boo.