Bidding wars boost school fundraising efforts

Moe Gecsey is the first to admit she’s no computer expert. Yet the Elmhurst mom of two recently built a fundraising Web site for her children’s school, Visitation, in an effort to tout its annual auction through using the Internet. Visitation volunteers hope that using cMarket Network, an online auction site for nonprofits, increases their earnings in spite of the tough economy.

CMarket CEO Jon Carson thinks online auctions can raise revenues based on a simple premise: more items and more bids equals more money. One of the challenges schools have with regular auctions is that people who don’t attend the auction can’t bid, he says."Your bidding demand is lost, but when you put it on the Internet for a week or two and it’s available 24/7, we get bids from the broader community.”

The company has created templates to walk organizations through the process of building their own Web site. They also offer some items to get the auction started, provide support to users in how to list items and sell sponsorship ads and help auction volunteers communicate with their local community.

Although cMarket charges a subscription fee and a performance fee, Carson says auctions larger than $3,000 pay for themselves, especially when you factor in some of the key ingredients for live auctions.

“When you look at the traditional gala and the tickets to the evening itself, that (cost) gets absorbed by food, entertainment, beer and wine,” Carson says."What we’re starting to see more of is people cancelling the gala and directing the parents to spend the money on the auction. That’s a win for the school because the $100 is going to the auction, where the profit is.”

At Visitation School, auction volunteers have decided to try a combination approach: they created an online auction site to let families begin bidding and to boost interest in the live auction, which will be held in February.

“It gets a big buzz so people who didn’t go to the auction can still participate and maybe be more excited for the auction,” Carson says.

For more information, visit or call (866) 918-0313. 

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