Service Auction Fundraiser

Another easy way to raise funds is with a service auction or skills auction. Essentially you are raising money by offering the skills and services of your supporters to the highest bidder. These are skills or services that people are already paying for, so its easy to get bidders interested in these types of auction items. Its also an easy way to raise money without much in the way of upfront expenditures.

Raise Funds With A Service Auction

Professional charity auctioneer Michael Ivankovich explains how to organize a skills fundraising auction and the types of services to offer. Read more in the guest article below.

Professional Services Fund Raising Auctions

This is a unique kind of Fund Raising Auction because instead of selling products, we sell “People“. Or at least we sell the “Services of People“. In today’s economy, money is tight for many individuals and sales are down for many businesses. But that doesn’t mean that they have to stop giving. Rather, nearly everyone has some type of skill, or provides some type of service, that can be sold to benefit your group or cause…and which costs them absolutely nothing except a little of their time. You simply need to become more creative in attracting sellable services for your Fund Raising Auction.

And many times a professional service can sell better than a physical product. For example:

  • A dentist can offer a teeth cleaning.
  • A golf instructor can offer private golf lessons.
  • A teacher can offer tutoring lessons.
  • A musician can offer guitar, piano, singing, or other musical lessons.
  • A limo owner can offer a night on the town.
  • A web designer can offer a simple template web site.
  • An artist can offer an individual or family portrait.
  • A cleaning service can offer a home or office cleaning.
  • A house painter can paint a room.
  • An airplane owner can provide a birds-eye view of the local community.

If someone doesn’t have a specific professional skill…they can still donate to the cause. For example, we have sold someone to:

  • Weed a garden.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Run Errands.
  • Watch and bathe pets.
  • Babysit for a child. And sit for an aged parent.

Local celebrity services usually sell well.

  • Lunch with a mayor.
  • A tour of City Hall, your State Capital, or the U.S. Congress.
  • A ride in a Fire Truck with the Fire Chief.
  • Dinner at a local politician’s home.
  • An insider’s tour of a local museum with the curator.

Typically the more famous the celebrity, the higher the selling price.

“Sell Me Again”? Yes, we hear that often. If the person we are selling brings an exceptionally strong price, they often offer up a second set of services. For example, at one auction an individual offering dinner for 8 in their home sold for $900. He said “Sell Me Again” and we sold two more dinners…at $900 each…for a total of $2,700 to the group.

Still short on sellable items? Don’t forget to ask those who have already volunteered their services if they have a spouse, child, friend, relative, or neighbor who might also like to participate in your event. Your volunteer attorney’s wife may be a school teacher. Their child may be a recent college graduate with special professional skill.. And their friend, neighbor, relative….you get the idea.

When the time comes for the auction, make sure that you have a professional auctioneer to solicit top dollar for you. An Auctioneer is trained to (politely and professionally) squeeze money out of a room, and a good auctioneer will raise more money than an amateur nearly 100% of the time.

In return for their donated services, always provide your volunteers with a little promotion.

  • Provide them with a complimentary business card-sized ad in the program.
  • Allow them (no more than) 30 seconds on the auction block to provide a verbal explanation of what they are offering.
  • Acknowledge them at some point during the event.

Don’t ever allow your volunteers to be publicly embarrassed. What do you do if, despite their self-promotion, despite the urgings of the Auctioneer, no one bids for their services? First, pre-screen your volunteers. If you honestly feel that no one will bid on them, politely decline. And secondly, if no one is bidding, have a staff member standing by with a discrete “Buy-In” bid that will prevent your volunteer from public humiliation. It costs you nothing to protect your volunteer and, embarrass someone publicly just once, and you’ve lost them, and most of their friends, forever as volunteers.

And perhaps most importantly…when the Auction is over, don’t forget to send “Thank You” letters to those who have donated their time or service. This will almost always insure that they will return as contributors at next year’s event.

About The Author

Michael Ivankovich is a Bucks County PA Fund Raising Auctioneer, Home Downsizing Consultant, and Personal Property Appraiser in Doylestown PA. He is also a licensed and bonded Auctioneer, and in 2004 was named Pennsylvania’s Auctioneer of the Year. For details, you can reach him at (215)-345-6094, email:

More Auction Fundraiser Ideas

Auction Consignment Items – Another way to raise more funds at your next charity auction event is to include consignment items in your live or silent auction. The major advantage is that you can raise more money without any risk because consignment items that don’t sell have no risk or obligation to pay.

Unique Silent Auction Items & Ideas – One of the best ideas to raise more money at your silent auction is by offering unique items. These unique silent auction items ideas may be related to a particular theme, be handcrafted, involve exotic destinations, or offer unusual experiences.

Auction Donation Ideas – Getting enough auction items donated to sell at your charity event is a tough task. Sometimes, the best ideas for auction donations come from thinking outside the box about new or unusual sources. Here are some auction donation ideas you may not have thought of, courtesy of Sherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions.