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Online Charity Auction

Our Online Charity Auction was a great success!

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Report on SI Stafford’s silent auction January 2021

The team, joint  presidents Gill Green and  Maudie McHardy, PA ambassadors, Janet Carlton, Denise Cottram, Tina Gould, Jasmine Reddy, Sandy Townsend, our treasurers Jane King and Denise, and PA coordinator Michelle Daws.


When our joint presidents, Gill and Maudie announced we were going to have an auction as a fundraiser, and ‘by the way as programme action coordinator Michelle, can you sort it out, Nichola Balmer might be able to help…?!!’

Support and teamwork

Nichola was brilliant, we arranged a call and I explained what we hoped to do. She made a number of very helpful, practical suggestions which made the organisation beforehand and the running of the event very straight forward.

These were:

  • have clear protocols
  • ensure people’s devices showed their correct name
  • use the chat facility for bids
  • ensure someone can check and support anyone having problems, logging in or bidding
  • have two or three dress rehearsals

We are fortunate as a club as one of our strengths is our excellent team work. Our programme action ambassadors, Denise, Janet, Jasmine, Tina, and Sandy plus our treasurer Jane, and most importantly Judith who was our very skilful mistress of ceremonies, all pulled together with our presidents to develop and practise what we needed to do.

Catalogue and protocols

We publicised the event well before during the autumn, and asked club for donations, with photographs, descriptions and the items’ values. The deadline for receipt of these was the week before the dress rehearsal. Members were wonderfully generous, and the programme action team reviewed the items and sensibly decided to split donations into two groups, of around 30 lots; one group is reserved for another auction later in the year. This is because we all felt that if the zoom meeting ran on too long, people would lose interest. As Judith wisely opined ‘better to leave them wanting more’. The finished catalogue, Gill’s work, was very polished and informative, and was sent out to all club members and any other interested parties a week in advance of the auction. Members then downloaded or printed it if they wished.

Testing the protocol was crucial as we were able to amend it before the night of the auction. We included it as part of the auction catalogue. It had key information, such as a helpline telephone number, for if you were unable to join, or had difficulty bidding.  It also explained how to ensure the real name of the participant showed on the screen, and not ‘Eric’s ipad’!! We asked participants to join 15 minutes before the start time, so we could start on time. Muted mics; we then explained the bidding and everyone could have a practice bid. We suggested that for the best signal everyone switched off their camera. They could unmute and switch their camera on in the break if they wished.

Having two people to note the names of the person with the highest bid was also helpful, as it meant that the mistress of ceremonies could concentrate on encouraging people to spend more money! The treasurer and assistant treasurer also kept an eye on totals.

Gill controlled the PowerPoint, and Maudie was our trouble-shooter, keeping an eye on the screen and bids.

Dress rehearsals

Initially, we thought we would only need one practice, however it became very clear to us that we needed a second one to check we had ironed out all the glitches.

The biggest challenge was that our mistress of ceremonies, on whose shoulder the smooth running depended, had a different set up to most of us, and she was not able to see the PowerPoint presentation of the catalogue and lots as well as the ‘chat’. Secondly, those of us bidding, started bidding as soon as the lot appeared on our screens. We decided it was imperative that the mistress of ceremonies must control when the bidding started, and the size and increments of the bids, otherwise several bids came in at once, from £1 to £20, randomly.

Judith and Jane, who both had Apple technology, spent a quiet afternoon sorting things out to ensure Judith could see both the lot and the chat, at the same time.

The second dress rehearsal allowed us to test out the amendments and feel confident we had the technology right. We also decided to have a break in the middle of ten minutes.

Gill also made a slide presentation about our three Charities, with music, to run before everyone arrived at the auction and during the ten minute break in the middle.

The auction

The night was a great success. It was fun!!  It was successful not only because we made a lot of money for our three charities, but everyone felt it was exciting, interactive, and there was a real buzz!!! We had a good turn out from our club and were very well supported by members from the region. Those people who wanted to could also make a donation if they wished and this allowed us to use Gift Aid too.

Going forward…

Feedback from our members was overwhelmingly positive. They felt they had had a ‘night out’! It was more interactive than our twice monthly Zoom meetings, and it was fun!!. But a couple of club members had difficulty with bidding. So we will practise how to use the chat and bid on another club night. We haven’t really been exploiting the chat function in our usual meetings.

We also realised that it would have helped if, on each PowerPoint slide, we had the helpline phone number.

Noting of names using the ‘chat’ went well. The only thing left to do is the distribution of lots.