5 School Auction Ideas You’d Actually Want to Bid On

A few days ago, I was chatting with my son’s pediatrician about how Americans spend over $60 billion each year on soda (pop). She mentioned that as many as four in five American children drink at least one soft drink a day. That’s millions of dollars spent on children with absolutely zero benefit to their wellbeing. The topic was whisked aside with her wistful words, “If only that money could go toward education.” The conversation happened to fall on the day I had volunteered to be in charge of the kindergarten auction project to raise money for my son’s school—and it lit a fire under me.

The irony is obvious. Here we are holding bake sales and making crafts to fund the education of our children while soda manufacturers are frolicking in fields of green as they devise more ways to get kids hooked. But I digress…I’ll save the rest of that rant for auction-night chitchat. In the meantime, let’s dive into the school auction ideas, and discuss how I’m going to raise a billion dollars for the school.

Since my oldest son is in kindergarten, you would think that I’m brand new to the world of school auctions. But my husband and I have actually already attended countless fundraisers for our children’s preschools, plus others to support friends and family members. So I’m well versed in the type of craft projects that are typically put on auction blocks.

Hats off to anyone who has ever accepted the challenge of overseeing a class-made auction item—especially one that’s so public. But while I always appreciate the sweet earnestness behind the projects, I come away thinking there’s an opportunity to be more creative—to coax the beautiful art of our children into a more sophisticated final format. I want to lead a project that the people in our community will want to buy—for a lot of money—because they’ll want to put it in their homes. And while my end goal is keeping the overall layout simple to really showcase the work of the children, perhaps I’ll also find a way to incorporate a subliminal anti-soda message into the final piece.

1. Block-Print Collage school auction ideas

image via Glitter Goods

The block-printed project on Glitter Goods is amazing for a number of reasons: it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make, it lends itself to partnering with other parents to pull off, and the end result is art I’d actually want to hang on my wall. I’m thinking of having the class make designs inspired by the San Francisco skyline. Or maybe we can do still-lifes of beautiful flowers displayed in defunct soda bottles. With this project, you could create one large piece of art to go home with the highest bidder, plus lots of small framed pieces for each family to buy.

2. “When I Grow Up” Photo Book

Since our school already publishes a yearbook through Mixbook, I thought it would be fun to create a custom photo book that allocates one spread for each child to dream about their future life as a grown up. Kids will be given a list of 10 questions to really think about and answer as honestly and creatively as possible. For early elementary schoolers, lots of in-class parental guidance will be required to tease out a couple gems. I am picturing a big beautiful photo—maybe the class picture to make it easy—on the left. The most interesting questions and answers can be featured on the facing page. Send out an email to the class a few weeks before the auction to get a sense for how many to order. Most parents will order at least one since they’re so affordable, and some will order many copies for extended family. Ask for a donation to the school for each one sold.

3. Peace Dove Print peace dove print diy auction idea

image via BCS Kid Art

I love the way this project from a Beverly Cleary School Auction embodies some great messages to teach our children. The obvious one is the idea of peace and the symbolism of the peace dove. But I think there’s more to it. Through creating a truly collaborative piece like this, kids learn first-hand that sometimes—almost magically—the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Kindergartners may not be ready to add the word “gestalt” to their vocabularies, but they understand it inherently: something beautiful can take flight from the coming together of many small things. Have the children create enough that each family can bid to take one home.

4. Children’s Silhouettes

This project is a way of creating a unique framed work of art for each child in the class, with the hope that each parent will shell out to take it home. The original idea came from Janet and Stu of Three Potato Four, but we found the detailed how-to directions on Design Sponge. My idea is to create a silhouette for each of the 21 children in my son’s class, then mount each one on a solid vibrantly colored background. Placed in white frames, the art will really POP.

5. Bus Stop Sign typography sign diy auction idea

image via White Nest

If there’s time, I am going to make this in addition to a kid-focused-art project. A few weeks ago I featured this Bus Sign from White Nest in my post, 6 Easy Typography-Inspired Craft Ideas. My idea is to make the same sign using the name of my son’s elementary school, plus the last names of his teacher, principal, and other key teachers and administrators at his school as pretend street names. The result will be a bus-sign-inspired piece of wall art that anyone in the community would bid high for—including the owners of the local market (hint, hint), which is soon to be soda-free (right?).

Have you ever made an auction item for a school fundraiser? I’d love to hear your creative school auction ideas!

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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Tracy Walker March 9, 2012, 5:33 pm

    This year for the School Auction we made a friendship tree. I wish there was a way to show you the photo because it was really very special. I printed a bare tree on a large poster at Kinko’s. And I bought a nice frame with mat (with my coupon!) at a craft store. I had each child in the class choose an ink color and put their fingerprints on the tree (like leaves). Then they each signed their autograph on the mat. Under the tree was a quote about Friendship being a sheltering tree and the class name/year. Preciousness.

  • Anne Leon Palacio March 10, 2012, 6:48 am

    Loved your ideas! At my daughter’s school each classroom is in charge of putting together a basket with a theme (ie movie night, family game night, bed time stories, road trip). The parents contribute donations for the theme or money so the room parent can put it together. The baskets are auctioned off through silent auction and they are quite successful. (NO SODA IN THE BASKETS (-: )

  • Angela September 17, 2012, 8:33 am

    Where do I find the questions for the Mixbook “When I Grow Up” yearbook??

  • Elle Daquioag September 24, 2012, 11:16 am

    Hi Angela,
    Here are the questions for the “When I Grow Up” yearbook:

    1. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
    2. What rule would you make if you were a grown-up? Why?
    3. If you were president, what would you make your first task? What would you do?
    Would you change a law/rule? Why?
    4. If you were to write a book, what would it be about? Why?
    5. If you could travel to either outer space or the bottom of the ocean, which would
    you choose? Why?
    6. What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened in Classroom 5? Why?
    7. How is 1st grade going to be different from kindergarten?
    8. What’s your favorite dessert? Why?
    9. Who’s your favorite Super Hero, cartoon character or character from a movie?
    Why?
    10. If you could be one animal, what kind of animal would it be? Why?

    We hope this helps! Happy Mixbooking! :)

  • Jennifer November 1, 2012, 8:00 pm

    http://wordsofkidness.com/Images.html

    I hope this link works. If not, please let me know. I did the auction item for my daughter’s4th grade class 2 years ago titled, Children Are A Blessing. I had a huge piece of black remnant fabric for the craft store (that I used when I did this project for my Inlaws) and laid it on the floor. I purchased 8 white tops and 8 white bottoms (sweatpants, long johns, turtlenecks, sweatshirts, leggings, etc). Didn’t care if they matched because you can’t tell when the photo is b & w. I had a 12 ft ladder (when we did it for Inlaws, we have a “bridge” overlooking the great room, so I stood up there for that one), climbed to the top of the ladder and had 2-5 children lay on the black fabric on the floor to form letters individually to spell out, “Children are a blessing” and for the Inlaws.. “count your blessings” and took several photos of each “letter”. I took some in b&w and some in color that I then used my photo program to make b&w. I just wanted to have all my options because getting the kids to lay still and so close to each other was a bit more than some could take. However, it was SO worth the effort. I went to local frame shops and found one to do it for her cost (because you actually have to matte each individual letter it got expensive and I only had a $200 budget for the entire project). It paid off well…I think it went for over $600. I did make a smaller one (in Photoshop, Letters not individually matted just a black background and printed it in a small poster) for the teacher and framed it. She cried. I kept some of the girl leggings for my daughter, donated some of the other white clothes. Hope you like the idea!

  • Caroline Stephen January 11, 2013, 5:46 pm

    Hello,
    Love your idea of the custom year book. Is it possible for me to see some images of the project.
    Thank you.

  • Mixbook Customer Care Team January 13, 2013, 11:44 am

    Hello Caroline,

    We’re glad to hear that you are interested in a custom yearbook with us! We have a few themes that you can check out and get started with. Please click on the following link, then scroll down to the “education” section: http://www.mixbook.com/photo-books

    Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns! We hope you enjoy making your book with us.

    -Kyle

  • Marilyn February 19, 2013, 7:37 pm

    I teach preschool and for our silent auction this year I painted a wooden child’s chair that I found at a garage sale.
    Then, using acrylic paints, I had the children choose an area: across the top, down a leg, etc. and decorate it with fingerprints. Using a fineline sharpie, I turned the prints into critters, flowers, faces, etc. I found easy ideas online. I then sprayed it with clear enamel spray paint. It turned out very cute and I hope it sells well.

  • Commqueen October 22, 2013, 8:45 pm

    we did the peace dove with finger prints above and it was great, but the heart we did the same way was better. framed against a bringh color. Teacher made a stencil to keep kids in the lines.

    a 60′s peace sign would also be cool with finger prints.

  • beautiful photography November 9, 2013, 8:25 am

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