COVID-19 restrictions have forced numerous organizations to cancel events this year, many of which provide vital fundraising revenue. The S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library in Port Allegany did not let the pandemic slow them down, as they turned their 31st annual library auction dinner into a virtual library auction.
Virtual Silent Auction bidding and Buy it Now Item virtual shopping began on Nov. 10, while the Virtual Live Auction was broadcast the night of Nov. 13. Library Director Mary Grace Collier-Kisler said that 116 people from different parts of Pennsylvania all over the country registered for the Virtual Auction Fundraiser on the iBid platform, including Rhode Island, Virginia, New York, South Carolina, Florida and Utah. In addition to the individuals who participated in the virtual event, other patrons who may not have participated donated auction items and made monetary donations.
Prior to the event, Kisler acknowledged the library most likely wouldn’t raise the typical gross income of $35,000 to $45,000. However, she was extremely pleased to say that despite the change in circumstances, the final gross income for the event totaled at over $27,000, with a projected net revenue of approximately $25,000.
“It is obvious that people really support library services in their community,” she said. “We had very few expenses for a virtual fundraiser.”
The Auction Committee hired Danny Bush of Danny Bush Media Productions in St. Bonaventure, NY to professionally broadcast the live auction event. Additionally, three members of the auction committee, along with Kisler, served as iBid administrators for the event and worked very hard to learn the iBid platform and get all of the item information and photos posted. The event reportedly ran very smoothly and all those who participated had a lot of fun.
“The feedback from participants has been very positive,” said Kisler. “We could have made the whole event a silent auction and had it run on autopilot, but the Auction Committee really felt that they wanted to offer a live auction broadcast to give people a live show and a sense of community engagement.”
The committee most certainly achieved this, as Kisler said Facebook comments were “popping up like daisies” during the Live Auction and texts and emails were flying about as individuals were bidding on the Silent Auction, Buy it Now and Donation categories.
“Everyone was trying to figure out who outbid them, who the high bidder was and just how high they would go on every item,” noted Kisler.
In the case someone was outbid on an item, the iBid platform immediately sent them a text message letting the individual know.
The auction committee also received a lot of positive feedback on the Star Trek memes they posted on social media to promote the event, and thanks to the multitude of people who participated, the S.W. Smith Library will be able to “live long and prosper.”
Kisler noted that the event wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the auction committee, library board members, dedicated staff, volunteers and corporate sponsors. Lacey Barber of Canoe Place Creative is currently making corporate banners to hang in the library in honor of their corporate dedication. The Port Allegany Veterans Memorial Inc. also graciously hosted the live auction.
When asked, Kisler said the library would most definitely consider holding another virtual fundraising event again on iBid, enlisting the help of Bush for the live auction broadcast.
Kisler had potential good news on Thursday, as she received a notice from the PA Library Association announcing that Pennsylvania public libraries will most likely be flat funded for 2021 as long as it passes a vote by the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf signs off on it.
This would be a huge win for PA public libraries, as Kisler said that public libraries are often the first institutions to receive a funding cut despite the “varied and necessary services” they provide to the public.
As of now, PA public libraries have only received five of the 12 months of 2021 funding in the first portion of the bi-furcated budget, which adds up to a loss of $18,700 for S.W. Smith Memorial Public Library in particular.