Hazel Wolf High School's online event
- In 2004, after four years of holding live auctions, Hazel Wolf High School (HWHS) decided to move its annual auction online. The Seattle-based private school sold 200 items and made nearly $10,000 during their ten-day auction on eBay in April 2004.
- The auction chairpersons, parent volunteers Justine Busse and James Christensen, started by writing letters to HWHS community members explaining how the online auction would work and how to approach business for donations. They provided letter templates that parents and volunteers could send to local businesses. In the letters, they included information on the high school and its philosophy. The HWHS community is small but over half of the 45 students and their families helped solicit donations.
- After a six-week procurement period, the HWHS community had solicited over 200 items including an authentic Wrigley field stadium seat, restaurant gift certificates, a fishing trip, musical instruments, and gym memberships.
Promotion and Parties
- Because most of the donations were services based in the Seattle area, local promotion was critical for the event's success. Justine created an email account dedicated to the auction and sent emails that HWHS community could forward to their friends and colleagues. She also sent out an Evite inviting people to the virtual auction.
- Some volunteers expressed concern that an online auction lacked the social aspect of a live auction. "We wanted to create a sense of 'fun' around the event even though it was being held online" Justine says. To address this, she planned two "bidding parties." The parties brought people together for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and online bidding. Justine and James planed to have some of the auctions end during the party to create a sense of excitement. The bidding parties also helped less-technical buyers register for an eBay account and go through the bidding process. "We wanted to make sure that everyone could participate in the auction and make sure that they felt comfortable with the online process," Justine says.
- The parties didn't end when the auction closed. Justine hosted a "shipping party" for HWHS volunteers. The group spent the evening packaging items and writing thank-you notes to donors. They even started brainstorming for the next school year; they are considering holding two auctions, one around the holidays and a second in the spring.