Step-by-step: auction of promises

An 'auction of promises' is a fantastic way of raising money for your PTA and helps get everyone, including local businesses, involved

From an hour’s maths tuition to a taxi service home from the next PTA event, the prizes on offer at an auction of promises can be just about anything. To ensure maximum variety and value, consider offering a combination of promises, products and services – this will guarantee that there’s something for everyone. And make sure you promote the event as the more people who come along the more money you’ll raise.

How, where, when?

By far the best and most enjoyable auction is one that’s organised as a big social event. Although other options include having an auction as part of another event (a silent auction within the Summer fête), or an online auction (there are companies that run this in an eBay-type way). Having a bar will add to your profits, especially given that there’s a direct ratio of alcohol consumed to money raised! You’ll need a TEN license for this. It will take a good 2-3 hours, so you might want to consider having a break mid-way with some food on offer. Select a date that doesn’t clash with anything else in the area and make sure you get a listing in the local paper.

Be prepared

Firstly, elect an ‘auctioneer’ – someone with a big personality who can make amusing quips, but who can also handle the rabble (and a gavel)! They will need to call out the Lot, with a brief description and what it’s worth, then start the bidding… You will also need several volunteers to collect details and money and someone to run the bar/do the food.

We can’t stress enough how important a decent PA system is – you could have complete anarchy if the auctioneer can’t be heard!

On the sensible side, you will need to have public liability insurance and undertake a simple risk assessment. If having a bar, make sure you obtain the correct licence.

Secure the auction bids

Create a form entitled ‘I am giving...’ with room for a description of the ‘promise’, including how much it’s worth and any exclusions (ie a meal for two from a local restaurant, could only be valid from Monday-Thursday). Make sure the name, address and telephone number are included. Send this home with pupils and encourage parents to consider what skills or services they could offer – from redesigning someone’s business cards, to having your home electrics checked by a pro. Then look to the wider community – contact local businesses, ex-pupils, local celebrities or your MP. Make sure that all donations are back about 2 weeks before the event.

Ideas for donations can span quite a range – the weirdest we’ve come across is a ‘colonic irrigation’ session or the best was a villa in Italy for a week! Here’s a few of the more likely offers you can expect...

  • Meal for two at a local restaurant
  • A free taxi ride
  • Gardening services
  • Babysitting services
  • Ironing or housework
  • Bike servicing
  • Dog walking
  • Car wash
  • Hobby lessons (jewellery-making, model-building)
  • Pampering vouchers
  • Sport coaching (golf, football, tennis)

Final preparations

A week before the event, give each donation a number and publish the list – either online, by email or sent out via book bags. Keep some of the better or more unusual offers as ‘lucky dip’ secret Lots. Clarify that parents can bid beforehand if they’re unable to attend on the night.

Let the auctioneer have a good look at the list, so that anything particularly funny can be used to keep spirits high or preparations can be made to deal with something potentially awkward!

Alright on the night…

Specify the rules and that money will need to be paid on the night or within 7 days, (it’s worth warning parents beforehand so that they come prepared). If anything has already been won through prior bids, or if you have too many to run through on the night, you could always save some of the least interesting for a silent auction. Specify the Lots which will be featured and leave the best Lot until last to finish on a high.


See also

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.