Like many schools do, ours has an annual auction. Over many years and many school auctions, I’ve noticed this phenomenon: even though bidding for a good cause, once a dollar value attaches to an item, people adopt a bit of the bargain hunter mentality.

The only items that escape this are ones you can’t put a firm price upon, the intangibles. In the best cases, these aren’t difficult for the donor to execute, either, and let’s face it, to do something special can often fall under the very desired category of “priceless.” Here are a few ideas:

This year, I’ve gotten my friend who owns a locally made and super delicious frozen yogurt store to give a behind-the-scenes tour of how the yogurt becomes so fabulous. This will be followed by a sit down with her (and perhaps her baby) over yogurt.

A beloved children’s music artist is offering a chance to perform in a duet at an upcoming concert. That’s about four minutes of fame for the child and photo-ops that can’t be beat for the parents: win-win.

A naming opportunity is super popular, as in get to name a character in a forthcoming children’s book.

A chance to show portfolio or writing to a professional artist, writer or editor is nearly guaranteed to start a bidding contest.

A tour of the local airport and airplane ride was a big hit in last year’s auction.

So was milk and cookies with the Mayor. Along the same theme is lunch with the principal or a play date with the preschool teacher.

The principal, along with my middle-school son, provided four meals over the course of the year.

Another variation on cuisine: a gourmet meal brought 12 bidders and then they enjoyed not only delicious food but a great party. A cooking lesson offers another way to spin things.

At the cooperative preschool, the offer to take on a mandatory cleaning party may be considered worth even more than priceless.

And the other no sticker price kind of item is one the kids make: the class quilt is truly priceless—except to the highest bidder, who pays for that privilege, with luck, dearly. It’s for a good cause, after all!

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine and Salon the Huffington Post, Babble and Ceramics Monthly. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies including The Maternal is Political and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. A writer for Preview Massachusetts Magazine, she keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows at the publication’s news site, the Valley Advocate and a tumblr Refractions. She is a sometime contributor to Momfilter. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows or Pinterest.


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