Skilful way to raise a bid for charity: Selling someone's promise of work is an effective method of generating cash, writes Andrew Bibby

VILLAGERS of Ambridge have not, it seems, done very well. As listeners to The Archers over the past few weeks will be aware, the fictional inhabitants of Radio 4's soap village have recently staged a 'promises auction' in aid of local church funds. Lynda Snell's offer to design a garden and Eddie Grundy's undertaking to compose a love song have been worked to death in the script.

The idea of promises - or skills - auctions, where the lots under the hammer are offers by individuals to contribute talents or experience, is anything but fictional, however. According to organisations that have used this form of fund-raising, Ambridge should have done better than the pounds 300 it raised.

'We have just organised what we called a 'skills and thrills auction' towards buying a second-hand pick-up truck for an agricultural and tree-planting project in northern Ghana,' says Ruth Coffey of the Leeds group of the charity Tools For Self-Reliance.

The auction was held in two parts during June and July and according to Ms Coffey raised more than pounds 2,000. 'We had 75 lots on offer: juggling lessons, baby-sitting, a day's caving for a beginner, as well as a chance to pose for a photograph with the Leeds United team . . . Someone offered to do the cooking for a meal for 20 people. That went for pounds 100.'

Ms Coffey says the auction provided the opportunity for supporters on low incomes to bring in much more for the Ghana project than they would have been able to donate.

The first task for a group planning a skills auction is to attract enough auctionable lots. 'The first reaction of most people is, 'I haven't got any skills.' But once they have had time to think, it is not that difficult to get offers,' says Judy Maxwell of Leeds Women Against Apartheid, another group that has arranged successful skills auctions. Among the lots they have auctioned have been offers to paint a picture of a house, to run a children's party, and to provide breakfast in bed.

Ms Maxwell says her group's auctions usually raise about pounds 1,000 from about 30 lots.

'The auctioneer needs to be happy to stand up and chivvy things at first, then it just takes off,' she says. 'It's a very good fund-raising device.'

According to Lee Comer, who arranged a skills auction in the small Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, earlier this year, it takes at least two months to arrange a successful event. Her auction, which raised pounds 1,200 for two local campaigns, had about 60 lots, including bridge, golf and wind-surfing lessons, a chauffeur-driven day out, and a consultation with a local doctor.

The auction venue, a local pub, may have helped: 'The drink probably helped increase the bids,' she admits. However, all the money eventually came in, she says, even from those whose bids may have been a trifle over-enthusiastic.

She was not impressed by the efforts of the radio residents of Ambridge: 'I would say it wasn't worth the effort - pounds 300 is terrible. You can get that from a jumble sale.'

Simon Frith, the radio script-writer who introduced the auction story-line, admits that the takings in Ambridge seem on the low side.

He says he participates in an annual skills and promises auction run by the Church of England school in his Gloucestershire village.

'It is the biggest fund-raiser for the school. This year it raised over pounds 1,000. Absolutely everybody volunteers.'

His promise for this year's sale was not, however, an opportunity to write your own plot for an Archers episode; instead he offered 25 lbs of apples from his orchard.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions