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Soul Auction

Activity Overview:
Both variations of this event revolve around the idea of auctioning off group members. The first iteration sells their "souls", which must be won back by a challenge set by the buyer; the second allows the buyer to send the purchased to a religious event of their choosing. (Note that these are not necessarily exclusive.) Make sure that both buyers and bought know the parameters beforehand (i.e. nothing degrading).

This is intended to be a fundraiser for your group, as well as something of a publicity stunt. Key to this is maximizing its impact; you may wish to roll this into an evening with another event you're throwing, such as a Flying Spaghetti Monster Feast. Regardless, to ensure you make money and get noticed you'll want to attract anywhere from forty to two hundred people, which can vary based on the size of your school and venue.

Planning timeframe:
Get started at least two months ahead of time. Give yourself more time if this is going to be a major fundraiser, or if it will be in conjunction with another event.

Unlike some fundraisers, this activity can be kept entirely in-house, since it will only be your group members who will sell their souls (unless you can convince a professor to join in). You'll need from 6 to 10 volunteers to sell their souls, and the people you select should be different enough from one another to present your group as a diverse organization, as well as to attract a wide range of soul-purchasers.

The tasks of advertising, securing your venue, getting volunteers, and collecting money can be parceled out between 2 to 4 coordinators. You'll also need 1 charismatic MC/ auctioneer, who doesn't necessarily have to be a coordinator but cannot be selling their soul.

As always, group leaders need to periodically check in to make sure everything is running smoothly!

Material requirements:
As for the event itself, you'll want your group's banner prominently displayed, as well as literature about your group. The stage for the auction can be decorated as simply or as gaudily as you want. You'll also require a cashbox to hold the money you raise - you may be able to borrow one from a student union Treasurer, or the student activities department.

Cooperating Organizations:
Depending on how seriously they take themselves, religious groups on campus may be either offended or amused. Those in the latter category may be willing to collectively purchase a soul or two, especially if you are focusing on the "send an atheist to church" variant.

If choose to make this event for members only, be sure to promote heavily through your group email list, Facebook or other web presence, and in meetings. If you choose to open this to the general campus, review the Group Promotion resource for for promotion ideas. People can't attend your event if they don't know it's happening, so be thorough in promotion and advertising.

Suggested Walkthrough:

  1. Two to three months ahead of time, you'll need to designate your coordinators, and to solicit volunteers. (Don't worry if you need to change volunteers later on - unless there is campus-wide interest in that person's soul, these events don't really focus on headliners.) Determine whether you want to combine this with another event, and if so which one.
    1. If you can get a well-known person on campus to donate their soul, it can be a big draw. Sympathetic professors, or even local supporters, may be interested, although asking people outside your group means you should plan and ask further in advance. The SSA might be able to help you find a local soul-seller - don't be afraid to ask!
  2. As soon as these details are in place, you need to secure an appropriate venue. Ideally, it should have a stage visible to the number of people you're expecting. Check to see if it has a podiumthat your MC can use, although this is optional. If the venue is large, you probably want to make sure you have an audio system.
  3. Advertise, advertise, advertise! Since this is a fundraiser, attendance at this event may well determine what other events and activities you can do. See the Group Running Guide for tips and ideas. You should also send a press release about two weeks before your event - the SSA can help you get the word out here.
    1. Although they won't be co-hosting, let religious groups or the chaplaincy know about your event - they may want to come as a group, or at least let their members know about it.
  4. About two weeks before the event, confirm that your volunteers can be there. The whole thing should only take between one and two hours, but be sure to schedule how the auction will proceed, especially if you're combining it with another event.
  5. The day of, be there earlyto set up.
  6. The auction should mostly run itself. The MC should introduce the group and explain how the auction will proceed. The MC will introduce the soul to be sold, the soul struts itself, and then the MC takes bids. Make sure a coordinator takes note of who buys which souls, and for how much. The winner(s) should be directed to pay whoever is in charge of the cashbox then and there.
  7. Dispensing the souls can be fun and entertaining in itself. You may want to have the winner come up on stage and discuss what they will do with the soul - if they are sending it to church, for instance, which one, and when. Some groups set it up such that the person whose soul was bought has to do something to get it back - complete a dare, for instance (make sure your volunteers know and agree to this!). Another option is to have your volunteers 'earn their souls back' through community service or volunteer efforts, perhaps chosen by the buyer. This can also change into a date auction, but where's the fun in that?
  8. After you've been paid and both purchaser and purchased have come to agreeable terms, the auction can be wrapped up. As always, pack up and clean up, and be sure to thank your volunteers and coordinators!
  9. Since you're making money off of this, and buyers like to get what they pay for, a coordinator needs to follow-up on the auction agreements and make sure they were fulfilled. Unsatisfied buyers may need to be refunded! If everything has gone smoothly, it wouldn't hurt to send the buyer(s) a thank-you note.

One of our best resources to find out what works and what doesn't is you - our student leaders! If you've employed a strategy that worked well, let us know about it so other groups can also use that idea. If you've learned a lesson of caution about something we suggest, point out the pitfalls. You can email us at organizer@secularstudents.org!

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