Along with celebrating the end of winter, students, parents and teachers at Liberty Ridge Elementary School in Woodbury always have an extra reason to look forward to spring. Each year in late March, their spring online auction coincides with their annual school carnival. Last year, the carnival and online auction netted more than $50,000, with the majority of that coming from the online auction.
The fundraiser helps finance an annual allocation each Liberty Ridge teacher receives from the PTA, which they can use to buy whatever their class/classrooms need to enhance learning efforts—everything from basics like pens and pencils to high-tech tools like iPads. Parent Kara Rowan, who chaired the spring event the last three years, says technology has been one of the keys to the PTA’s fundraising success—specifically, a mobile “click and donate” website. Today’s time-stressed parents “want to donate, but they also want it to be easy,” Rowan says.
Rather than having to be at the auction site during the auction, they can log onto the Winning Cause website—a free online silent auction venue with mobile bidding for schools, nonprofits and charitable causes—to bid and also get real-time info on the bidding action. After an auction participant has bid on an item, when someone places a higher bid they receive a notice by text, so they can place another bid. “It’s fun and the money goes to a great cause; people get hooked,” Rowan says. “It’s so user-friendly. Parents are more apt to do something like this than having to help their kids go door-to-door, selling.”
Another key to the success of the auction is the desirability of the prizes, thanks to the generosity of area residents and business people, Rowan says. More than 150 area businesses donated prizes last year. Last year’s prizes included gift cards for stores and restaurants, high quality bikes, a weekend at a family cabin, and vacations; last year, one participant won a vacation trip to the Dominican Republic. “The businesses are generous and the parents are really committed,” Rowan says.
Teachers also participate by donating classroom experiences, enrichment opportunities for each grade level such as a teaching unit on bats (the flying mammal variety) for first grade students, or a writing workshop for fifth graders.
Mandy McDonough, a kindergarten teacher and teachers’ representative on the PTA board, says they appreciate the PTA’s help. “Their fundraising has been amazing; the PTA has funded a lot of technology for classrooms, like iPads and Chromebooks.” The PTA’s efforts “allow us to give our kids opportunities and technology enrichment that we would otherwise have to fund out of our own pockets. Our PTA is all about the kids.”
The PTA also uses money raised to fund major technology projects such as outfitting the entire school with smart boards (computer-controlled, interactive whiteboards) and smart board accessories such as “docking cameras” used to project images on walls.
Along with raising educational funds, Liberty Ridge principal Mike Moore says the auction/carnival event accomplishes other things, too. “It brings the Liberty Ridge community together, all the families have fun, and it’s a great way for parents and neighborhoods to connect with each other,” he says. “People look forward to it every year. It’s a lot of hard work from our PTA, and they continue to surpass the goals they have set for each carnival.”
Liberty Ridge Elementary School
Online Auction, March 22-April 1
Annual School Carnival, April 1