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
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

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor