There’s a lot of planning that needs to be done beforehand to ensure that you have a successful quarter auction – venues, setting a date and time, vendors, promotion, volunteers and much more.
We’ve therefore produced a comprehensive guide below to help you and your organization put on a fun fundraising event.
Find a venue
If your organization already has a building, it will probably be easiest to hold the quarter auction there, especially as it’s free!
Don’t have your own venue or the one you have isn’t suitable? Contact other organizations in your community to see if they’d be willing to let you use their space for free – try churches, non-profits, schools, community colleges, universities, restaurants, hotels, etc.
With places like restaurants, they might be willing to donate their space for free in return for them being able to sell concessions on the night.
Make sure that the venue will have enough tables and chairs and that you’ll have access before and after the quarter auction in order to get everything set up and taken down.
Set A Date & Time
A Friday or Saturday evening is generally the best option, but make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything else going on in your community
Are there parades, school sports, church groups, etc that would be happening at the same time? If so, you’ll probably be reducing the number of people who are able to attend the auction.
If you’re wanting it to be a family event, don’t start it too late in the evening, especially if this is your first time planning a quarter auction – it might take longer than you’re anticipating.
Get Some Vendors & Donations
Try to get a few vendors confirming their participation and their items donated as soon as you can – this will make promoting the event much easier.
To encourage them to get involved early, let them know that their names / business will be appearing on the early marketing information, thereby ensuring they get some free advertising. They may also be able to deduct the cost of donated items (but not services).
There are two ways they can be involved:
- Donate an item or a service – this is what will be auctioned off. On the night, they’ll be able to come on stage to give a brief description of their business / service and what they’ve donated.
- Book a table – before the auction starts, they’ll be given a table at the event where they can have their items or marketing materials on display. They can then talk to attendees and increase interest in their business.
Let them know how much it will cost to have a promotional table at the quarter auction ($10 or $20 can be a good option), although you may choose to waive the cost of the table in return for them confirming their participation early.
If they’re confused about what a quarter auction is, refer them to this website!
Produce Flyers And/Or Posters
Start producing some flyers and/or posters to help you get the word out about the quarter auction. It might be a new concept for a lot of people, but that will also hopefully pique their interest.
The flyers should contain all of the pertinent information:
- The venue
- The date and time
- Which organization the auction is in aid of
- Who to contact for more info (give both a phone number and email address)
- Some of the items that will be auctioned (this is why the early donations in the previous step are helpful)
- How much the first paddle will be, along with any additional paddles
- That they should bring some cash with them in order to bid
Contact More Vendors
Now that you’re armed with flyers, start contacting other vendors (see our list of 101 vendors and items for more ideas).
Make sure you emphasize how it benefits them – they’ll get to promote their services, their name will be associated with helping the fundraiser, they’ll be listed on future promotional materials (if applicable), etc.
Even if they’re not willing to donate anything or book a promotional table at the event, ask them if they’d be willing to display your flyers.
Try to get other people in your organization involved if they have specific contacts. For example, board members of a non-profit might have professional connections with other businesses, a colleague may know the manager of a hotel, etc.
It can be a good idea to have concessions on offer at the auction – the event will probably last at least a couple of hours, so attendees will get hungry and thirsty.
It’s also a great way to fundraise even more, as you can charge more for the food and beverage than it costs (see the concessions section of this guide for some ideas of how that works).
You don’t have to provide a three course meal; in fact, the simpler the better. Here are some ideas of what you could sell:
- Hot dogs (use large crock pots to cook them and keep them warm)
- Meatballs (crock pots work well for these too)
- Potato chips
- Bottles of water
- Cans of soda
Also consider having some kind of vegetarian option if you know that any vegetarians will be attending.
Publicize The Event
Get the word out about the quarter auction. Local news outlets in particular should be keen to cover the story due to the event being something different compared to a normal auction. Make sure you also invite them to the event itself in order to gain additional coverage.
Display flyers and posters in as many places as you can. Ask your organization’s supporters to hand them out to friends and family who live locally, as well as using word of mouth to promote the auction.
If you’re a 501(c)(3), you might be able to use the Google Grants program to do some targeted online advertising for free.
If you’re fundraising for a church or other faith-based community, have the event mentioned during a service and in any bulletins that are handed out.
If your organization has a website, make sure the quarter auction is featured on there. If you have a list of supporters’ email addresses, make sure you let them all know too.
Seeing as it’s meant to be a fundraiser, you’ll obviously want to minimize how much you spend running the event.
There are some items though which are worth getting to help you run a successful quarter auction. It might be possible to get some or all of these items donated though, so explore those avenues before purchasing anything:
- Ping-pong balls – use these for the auction by using a Sharpie pen to write numbers on them, which you’ll then draw at random to choose who wins each item. You can get a bulk pack of 144 balls for low cost on Amazon
- Paddles – see our guide for options of how to make them for free or by not spending much money
- Pencils or pens – get a bulk pack of pencils or pens so that there can be a set on each table where attendees will be sitting
Produce A Quarter Auction Explanation
Some (or all) of the attendees may not know how a quarter auction works. Although it can be explained by the MC before it starts, it’s also worth producing a flyer giving a basic outline that can be handed out as people enter.
You could use this guide as a basis for providing your explanation. If you have a website, upload the document there too so that people can learn more in advance.
Choose An MC
One of the most important factors in a successful quarter auction is choosing the right MC to host the auction.
It needs to be someone who has the confidence to stand up in front of a large group of people. They need to be entertaining, funny, good at sales (or at least capable of helping to promote each item being auctioned) and able to keep things running in a timely manner.
They’ll need good eyesight (to be able to see raised paddles) and be able to project their voice (unless you have a microphone and speaker).
Ideally, this will be the only job they’ll have that night – they’ll be busy for much of the time, so it’s best not to ask them to help with concessions, greeting, etc if you can help it.
If you already have a volunteer base for your organization, make the most of them as there will be plenty of jobs that need doing:
- Welcoming attendees – they’ll be at the front table taking people’s money for the paddles
- Selling concessions
- Setting up and taking down tables and chairs
- General tidying up after the event
- Collecting quarters from tables throughout the auction. They’ll need to be able to do some basic math as they’ll need to count how many paddles are raised at each table and make sure that the corresponding number of quarters have been placed in the pot on the table.
- Hand out prizes
Set Bid Amounts
It’s a quarter auction, so in theory all of the donated items could have one flat bid amount of 25c. However, there will probably be a wide range in the value of the items, so it’s best to set the bid amounts accordingly.
Here’s a suggestion of how much to charge – the value of the item is listed first, with the bid amount listed second:
- $0 – $24.99 = $0.25
- $25 – $49.99 = $0.50
- $50 – $74.99 = $0.75
- $75+ = $1
Produce A List Of Items
Create a flyer that lists all of the items that are being auctioned, which businesses donated them and how much each item’s bid will be.
These can be handed out to attendees as they enter, with some additional copies on the tables that they’ll be sitting at during the auction in case they lose their copy.
Day Of (Or Day Before) The Event
Go to the bank and get many rolls of quarters. $100 should be the maximum that you’ll need as many people will bring their own quarters.
You’ll also be collecting the coins throughout the auction, so if some people need more change, this can be swapped during the event.
Get the venue set up – how this is done will vary depending on the size of the venue, the layout, how many people will be coming, etc.
As a suggestion though, arrange some tables around the edge of the room – these will be used by vendors who’ve paid for a table to display their products or information about their services. This could also be where concessions are sold, although if there’s a kitchen available, that might be a better location.
You should then have tables in the center of the room, with several chairs at each one. This will be where attendees sit during the auction. There should be several items placed on each table:
- List of items being auctioned
- A guide to how the auction works
- Flyers about your organization and how the funds raised from the quarter auction will be used
- Pencils or pens
- A pot the quarters can be placed in (this doesn’t have to be expensive or too fancy – even Solo cups could be used)
At The Event
We won’t go into detail here about how the event itself should be run, as our separate guide will give you a good idea of what should happen.
After The Event
Write to (or email) all of the vendors, thanking them for their generous donations, for purchasing a table at the event (if applicable) and letting them know how much was raised. This gesture will hopefully encourage them to want to be involved the next time you plan a quarter auction or some other kind of fundraiser.
Also contact all of your volunteers to thank them for their assistance.
If any local newspapers or TV news stations had covered your event beforehand, get back in contact with them to let them know how successful it had been and how much was raised in case they wish to do a follow-up story.
Seek feedback from as many people as you can who were involved in the auction:
- Vendors – find out what they liked and didn’t like, as well as any suggestions they have for the future. Did they feel like they benefited from being involved? If so, how? If not, what do they think you could do to help them equally benefit in the future?
- Volunteers – did they think the event was well-run? Was there good communication? Did they know what they were supposed to do? Was too much expected of them? What suggestions do they have for future quarter auctions?
- Attendees – did they enjoy the event? If so, what was it in particular they liked? If not, what needed improving? Was the auction too short, too long or just right? Was the concept explained clearly enough for them to understand how quarter auctions work? Would they want to attend a similar event in the future?
Now that you know how to plan a quarter auction, be sure to check out our 10 additional tips for making it successful.