If you have students in a private school, you probably have a school auction problem. If there's a church attached to the school, that problem might be more complicated. I assume not all schools use the funds from the auction for the same purposes, but it does seem to be part of a budget that might already include you feeling like you pay for everything. And that's probably because you do--that's what a private school is all about. So how to handle the auction.

We were part of a school in Kansas that was declining a bit as a school, but the church side was hugely supportive, especially when it came to the auction. It raised about four times the money of our current school auction, but some of the reason was built into certain decisions that were made. The auction should not be relied on as guaranteed income, but if you find a formula that works, that's great.

Our school last year focused on hand-made class items to be sold. Crafty stuff that cost nothing. A parent would buy it and then often donate it to a classroom or teacher. That's pretty generous, to pay $50 for a bunch of fingerpaint, only to give it away. The next school we were at had classroom parents buying an item to be sold at the auction. So one class might say that every parent needs to give $10 or $20 for the item. So people are buying $200 items with parents' money in the hopes that someone might pay $300 for it. So the parents pay a total of $500 for the item, and the school gets $300, but it really feels more like $100 to parents in the class. I know it's a good time for some parents to show off that they're high-rollers, but they can also do that by bidding $100 for a class project.

Our last school also had a few parents who worked in jobs where they could get discounted items that they purchased and then offered to the auction. I assume the next school has the same kind of thing. It can be a good way to get your home business out there. I think there was also a solid network established with local businesses willing to donate items at that school. Basically, the auction was jam-packed.

The school also had several teacher items, wherein a teacher would give an experience with a student. I liked that idea, even if it was a little bit of a hassle for my wife/teacher. She offered to take a kid and parent to a arboretum, but going to an art museum or the zoo would also work. I'd just tell the teachers to focus on something they like to do or have a membership to get in free. Some teachers had one or two kids over for dinner and a movie. That kind of stuff. Again, very little money laid out and a decent return. I think my wife raised $50+ for the school, and our membership got the group into the arboretum for free.


There was also some kind of rapid-fire bidding to give to the scholarship fund. I don't even remember how it went, but I know we were shamed into at least giving the lowest amount. Some people just kept on giving more. These people were excited about giving.

The last school's auction also had a principal challenge. This raised a lot of money for the principal to do something or other. It was just everyone giving as much as they cared toward a total. I didn't care to give anything because I had learned to dislike the principal a bit, but people seemed to want the kids to see this person do something silly. Somewhat related was the principal for a day. One kid got to make up rules and sit in the desk for part of the day.

All told, that school, similar in size to our next school, raised enough money to pretty much pay for a teacher each year. But it had a lot to do with the fact that well over 50% of the kids went to the church, and probably closer to 75% of their grandparents or parents were members of the church at some point. The next school is less than 20% church kids. Sure, some parents might spend a little at the auction, but the grandparents won't be there to put the auction to bed.

Another issue that might come up would be church parents who are not school parents. They might technically support the school, and they might feel like it's the thing to do, but that's not really the case. Our church in Wisconsin kind of invited all church parents and kids to an auction-like festival that was so centered on the school that it made us very uncomfortable as non-school parents at that point. It's better to just make it clear what the purpose of the auction is, even though you DO want church members to get involved. If you only have 20% of the school coming from the church, that church needs to know how important the outreach is, and the auction should acknowledge this.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.

    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.

    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.

    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.