GestureGesture is excited to announce our new Gesture – the Gesture TV Show! Each week we interview charity founders and directors who share their best advice on what it takes to run successful nonprofits.

Our special guest this week is Kellie Lang who has helped cochair a successful school auction.

Gesture TV:
How did one elementary school raise $30,000 in 20 minutes?

Video Interview with Kellie Lang, cochair of an elementary school auction fundraising event.

Monika: Welcome to Gesture TV. I’m your host, Monika Rydzewski, and today we have with us Kelly Link, who is the cochair of a fundraising event benefiting a local elementary school. Thank you so much for being here.

Kellie: Thank you for having me.

Monika: How did you get involved with school actions?

Kellie: Well I’m a parent of elementary school age children and a volunteer and a PTO. And I was asked to cochair our major fundraising event that we do every other year, so it’s every two years that we do this. And when we do it, it’s a big deal because it’s the major fundraising event that allows us to fund educational enhancements at our school over our children for the following two years. So it’s something that the school community gets very excited about and I thought it would be a great way for me to have an impact, not only on my children, but others as well.

Monika: That’s great. So what are some of the steps of having a successful school charity event?

Kellie: Well I think most importantly, it’s very important to be very organized and if maybe you aren’t personally maybe cochairing with someone who is, there’s a lot of things that go into it and as long as you’re organized, I think it won’t be as overwhelming as it could be. So it’s not very hard to get people excited about it and get volunteers lined up for all the different committees that you might want to have to help you out. So I think it’s easy to get people on board and to get a lot of assistance.

Monika: Okay. So I know at one of your events, you had a theme going on. Tell us a little bit about this theme party that you guys did.

Kellie: Well that is another important factor of hosting a successful fundraising event at a school, is to have a fun theme. I once was a rodeo theme, so people didn’t have to get overly dressed up but it’s fun to go little Western here and there. We had a lot of great entertainment with bull riding and we had dancing and we had great themed food and we had a themed cocktail. So I think that’s important to get the excitement going and to generate a desire for people to come because the only way that the fundraiser is going to be successful is if you have a lot of people attend.

Monika: That’s really great. So I’ve been hearing this term sign-up parties. So can you tell us a little bit about what a sign-up party is and what are some of the benefits or what are some of the things that you’re involved at?

Kellie: Sure. Sign-up parties are a great fit at elementary schools. They can be children-focused, as well as adult-focused. So a sign-up party is when a couple families come together and donate an activity or a party, let’s say. And we find that teachers do this. The first grade teachers might donate a pottery party at one of the local pottery shops here in the area. And they will allow for, let’s say, 15 students to sign up. And they will pay $25, the parents will pay $25 for their student to attend, but the event is actually being donated by the teachers. So the cost of the event will be donated by the teachers.

Monika: How much did you guys raise?

Kellie: Oh. It is so popular. I remember working with our Gesture representative the night of the event and within about 20 minutes, most of our sign-up parties had sold out and we had raised close to $30,000.So it, now we had a lot of people donating a lot of activities. All of our teachers dove in and donated something and all of our families were very generous in hosting. So we had a lot of generosity given to us, in terms of what was available. But then we had a lot of generosity at the event in terms of those events selling out.

Monika: I know the checkout can get very chaotic cause there’s a lot going on with these events, so tell us a little bit about your process with the checkout.

Kellie: Right. In the past, it has always been kind of the most challenging part of hosting an event like this. And at our school, the PTO board was responsible for that closeout process and it was always very manual. You have to remember, when you’re parent volunteers, you know, we’re not professional fundraisers. And we don’t have all of the tools to, you know, within the school to be able to do something like this. And so it’s always been of a very manual process with bid sheets and then collecting those at the end of the night and having to come up and compile a list by person who needed to go home with what items. And we’re talking, you know, several hundred items. You can see how that can be very overwhelming. So when we decided to work with Gesture last year, that was a huge benefit that may be at the beginning in considering to use them, it was more about the user experience and kind of having, you know, a technology savvy bidding process and, you know, doing something different than we’d ever done before. But a huge benefit, an outcome, of utilizing them was the checkout process and once the auction closed, very quickly Gesture started generating receipts by person and it was just coming off the printer in stacks. So we very quickly could, as the person walked up, get their receipt, get them their items, and very efficiently and pleasantly for the guest, get them on their way. And very efficiently and pleasantly for our volunteers as well. And then, the follow-up afterwards was so minimal because of that, because we had the right things going home with the right people. We didn’t have people getting frustrated or irritated that maybe their winnings weren’t available to them or people walking away and us having to then departed the venue with a bunch of extra items that didn’t get picked up. It really just made the whole closeout experience so much more pleasant. And because of that, I would highly, highly recommend using Gesture for any auction. And I think sometimes a school might think that maybe they’re not large enough of an event to utilize an electronic bidding platform, like Gesture offers, but because of maybe the capabilities of the school and the fact that we’re not professional fundraisers, it makes utilizing Gesture make that much more sense. So large or small, it’s really a wonderful organization to partner with.

Monika: Well thank you so much for being here, taking the time to share all of your valuable information.

Kellie: You’re welcome.

Are you hosting a school auction? Gesture would love to help! Please contact us today.