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Silent Auction Speaks Volumes

Colleen White
Bordentown NJ USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 1, January-February 2006, pp. 34-35

In 2005, LLL Groups across the USA held fundraising events between May and September to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) and support the ongoing work of our organization. WBW celebrations have included events such as fairs, raffles, walks, auctions, and picnics, to name a few.

Although La Leche League of Lawrenceville, New Jersey had held other successful WBW Celebration events, for 2005 we decided to try holding a Silent Auction, which would be a fun way to raise both funds and awareness for WBW. Thanks to many dedicated Group members and Leaders working together, our celebration was successful and raised more money than any of our other events in previous years.

Our first order of business, approximately six months before our event, was to appoint a chairperson, set a date, and secure a location. Fortunately, we had a willing and able member of the Group who, in combination with a capable team, spearheaded the Silent Auction. Although our chairperson did have contacts in the area that she solicited for donated items, it was mostly her willingness to "cold call" area businesses that generated the most donations. She is also a member of a women's singing group, and they agreed to sing at our event for free. Another friend of hers is an art teacher who willingly helped the children at the event make a craft project using play food, incorporating the 2005 WBW theme, Breastfeeding and Family Foods: Loving and Healthy.

Our Group meetings are held in a church community room. The church also has a large gymnasium with an adjoining art room and a kitchen that we used for our event. The art room was selected to host the children's craft project, while the gym held the silent auction items. On stage were the singers and the food tables.

The behind-the-scenes work in the months leading up to the auction made the evening run smoothly. We used the posters, donation brochures, and postcards on the LLLI Web site and customized them to our event. We handed these items out each month at our meetings and encouraged members to take them and share with friends and family. We had a team assigned to hang posters in local businesses. Our committee mailed a combination invitation and donation brochure (from the Web site) to all past Leaders and members of our Group. This resulted in several donations. Several members of the planning team took care of running publicity postings in our local newspapers.

Our committee focused on several areas in order to obtain both auction donations and food donations for our event. One person contacted businesses associated with LLL or New Beginnings magazine for donations. Another person contacted all of the businesses in her neighborhood. Our chairperson contacted all local food and grocery stores. We asked each Group member to make, buy, or solicit one item or gift certificate. By working together and splitting this large task into smaller pieces, we were able to collect over 70 items, exceeding the goal of 35 silent auction items that we had set for our Group.

Our chairperson maintained a Web site for our silent auction and posted photos of each of the items. Pieces ranged from homemade beaded handbags to gift certificates for restaurants to artwork.

Our auction attracted a sizable crowd, consisting mostly of Group members, their families, and friends. Although the bidding was silent, the evening itself was not! Music provided by PhilaCappella, conversing around the food tables, and drawings every 15 minutes for donated door prizes kept the evening lively. Each family left with a "goody bag" filled with donated treats and catalogues and coupons from businesses.

After the auction, there were several unsold items. One Leader sent an email to our entire Group and local Leaders, "advertising" these items for the initial bid amounts. We sold several items to those mothers who were unable to join us at our Silent Auction.

Although planning the auction took much time and coordination, breaking the various jobs into "mother-sized" portions made it easier to handle. Our Group, buoyed by the success of this event, is looking forward to planning our 2006 WBW celebration!

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