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Auctioning Your Services

Sarah Layton

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Has anyone successfully donated their services to a fundraising charitable organization for an auction type of event? Please advise how you presented the service, and did you ever have no one bid or the bid was much lower than the service was worth? I have an opportunity and want to do this to raise as much for the charity and to keep my value image intact.

— Jewell Kutzer

I have donated my services for fundraising for non-profit groups, with mixed results. So I have learned something over the years.

  1. No Bids. Yes — happened at a Meeting Professionals International conference where my services were in the silent auction. A number of meeting planners said they were very interested but weren’t authorized to make such a bid. However, at another MPI conference, a independent meeting planner made a successful bid.

    Subsequently, at a minimum, I’ve always had a stack of promotional brochures with full information on my presentation next to the auction item so people could pick them up for future consideration even if they could not, or were not, ready to decide at that time.
  2. Bid Too Low — Always establish a minimum bid. However, you have to accept that while you make sure that your regular booking fee is clearly presented, the minimum bid is going to be lower than that. The premise is that they are getting a “bargain” while helping the organization.
  3. Promoting Interest & Other Ideas — If the organization has a newsletter or email blast going out on the conference, try to get a blurb about the fact that you, with your credentials, will be offering your services as an auction item and emphasizing how they can help themselves as well as the organization by buying your services.

    Don’t just have a sheet with your name and what you do represent you at the auction. Put together a three-ring binder with full 4-color information on you, your services, pictures of you at presentations and glowing reference letters.

    At a fundraiser, I had the three-ring binder and a basket of “goodies” and got a really good winning bid for the organization. The winner gave the opportunity to another organization he was involved with and my presentation there turned up some spin-off bookings.
  4. Other Possibilities — I just did a pro bono presentation as a fund-raiser for our Council on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Daycare Center. This kind of thing gets you publicity as well as bringing in funds for the non-profit. In addition, I sold my books, with 10% going to the COA.

— Judith Parker Harris

I have donated my materials several times for silent auctions. You can stipulate a minimum bid, if you are worried about the materials going for too little. I usually donate an 8-week self-help program with CDs and workbook, two other books I wrote, plus one to two hours of coaching. I make up a beautiful poster-size table card with my picture, details of the product offer and 4 or 5 benefits to the buyer. I also nicely display my product next to the poster card. I usually select organizations in which I’m very active which means they already know who I am — which makes the offering more valuable to the participants.

It has always been a win/win situation — great exposure for me and money for the charity. Ironically, few people ever call for the “free” coaching, but some have become clients.

— Rita Risser

Usually the organization puts a “reserve” or minimum price on your service after consulting with you. If they don’t suggest it, you should — after all, it’s to their benefit, too. Services tend to go better if they include a product. For example, if you are offering a consulting session you should include your book and the book would be on the auction table. This way the bidders get a better sense of who you are, your book gets visibility, and you stand out from other service providers who don’t have a product. If you don’t have a book or CD, you could prepare a very nice report, white paper or similar. You also can have your media kit there for them to look at and for the successful bidder to take with them.

I have done this many times with many different services and no one has ever actually taken me up on it! I even once gave away a 3 hour mini-retreat at the beach, including a massage, one-on-one yoga and lunch, which a person paid $500 for, and they never came to claim it!

— Warwick J. Fahy

Is it for a live auction or silent auction? Typically most charity auction events will have both. The live auction with a charity auctioneer is held with all the audience present and bids going back and forth. The key question here is does the audience place a value on the item being auctioned. I am not so sure about the perceived value of a professional service. If you have a big rep with the audience, then perhaps.

The silent auction takes place throughout the event and people write their bids on a sheet of paper. There is a minimum limit and — again depending on the items and the audience — it is possible that items will not get bid on.

I recently partnered with the organizer and offer my book for everyone who bought a strip of raffle tickets (which are often available during the event as well!). This guaranteed my book high visibility at the front of room on a table. Plus it helped the organizers sell more tickets, which they appreciated. Finally, it helped me place 100+ books with potential buyers and prospects for my services. At the same event my silent auction coaching offer didn’t attract many bids. It all comes down to the audience attending. In the current environment, people are being more thoughtful about this type of spend.

— Jenny Herrick

I have spoken at several fund-raising benefits. I didn’t charge a fee and donated all the proceeds from my book sales to the benefit (Ronald McDonald House in Dallas). It wasn’t an auction, however.

Another benefit I did was for ChildShare in Omaha, NE. — no fee and 1/2 proceeds from my book sales.

These are tax-deductible with proceeds from the books being determined what I had to pay for each book (not the actual cost of the book). I determine what fee I would have charged the group and ask the meeting planner to provide a letter with their letter head stating that I donated my services and blah, blah, blah. My tax man just wants good bookkeeping and these events all go under contributions.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions