How to Host a Service Auction The Prudent Homemaker

Several readers were curious about the service auction that I attended with other women from church earlier this year. Many of you mentioned wanting to host a similar event with your own group and were curious about the details.

Here’s how we did it:

Everyone was asked to come prepared to perform at least one act of service for someone else. It could be anything you wanted to give. When we got there, the first thing we did was fill out a piece of paper with the service that we were willing to perform.

That morning I had been speaking with my son’s Cub Scout leader, and we both were having trouble narrowing down our choices. I said I had 5 things, and so did she! We both decided that we should try to narrow it down to 3 things. I asked her what she had and she asked what I had, in hopes of making the best choices. We narrowed ours both down, and then she mentioned that she really wanted someone to help prune her roses, so I decided to go with 4 things, including that one.

The services that I chose to give were:

Wash 10 windows at someone’s house

Prune roses for someone

Give a 1-hour garden consultation

Give a hands-on lesson on how to make French bread

After we filled out the service papers, we put them on a table with everyone else’s. We were all able to browse the services being offered before the auction began.

After everyone had a chance to look over the services offered, we sat down and were given a questionnaire to fill out based on services we had recently done, including questions like, “Did you hug someone today?”, “Did you say ‘I love you’ to someone today?” “How many people did you bring with you tonight?”

The person in charge went through each of the questions then, and we were told how many points we would receive for each yes answer, in amounts of 5 or 10 points. We were then to total our points, and that would be the amount of play money we received to participate in the auction. Everyone had at least $200 of play money, and some people had almost double that.

(You can do an internet search for printable play money. You can also go to The Math Worksheet Site, which has a one month subscription for $2.50 USD) and print play money in whatever denominations that you chose for American dollars, Australian dollars, British pounds, Euros, Canadian dollars, and Singapore dollars.)

The auction was run like a regular auction, with the winning bidders paying in play money.

Some of the items being auctioned included:

Will mend 5 items (while this item was being auctioned, a woman asked if the person giving this service would just sew on Scout patches. When she said yes, bidding went pretty high!)

Make enchiladas for 10 people

Help starting a project that you have had trouble starting

Homemade ice cream

Homemade rolls (high bidding on this one)

A dozen fresh eggs

Homemade dessert on a day of your choice

Homemade birthday cake (bidding went high on this one)

Homemade whole wheat bread

A lot of the items were food items, but you can chose anything you want. (Years ago, I attended a similar type of activity, and a couple of people had offered to clean someone’s refrigerator. That was a highly-sought after service!)

At the end of the activity, the play money was collected so that it could be used again.

This activity was a lot of fun. It was really interesting to learn what some people were really passionate about, and it also made us more aware of one another’s talents. I especially liked that aspect of it, because it allowed us to know more about one another.

It was decided that we will have a service auction on a yearly basis, as everyone enjoyed it so much.

Eggs The Prudent Homemaker


I won a month’s worth of eggs and goat’s milk (4 dozen eggs and 4 quarts of goat’s milk). I also won a basket of tomatoes from someone’s garden (when they are ripe, of course!)

Have you ever participated in a service auction or similar type of event? What were the services that you remember being offered?

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  1. I have never heard of a service auction. Love it & love reading about all the creative things you do. I am so used to having people show generosity by spending money, it’s like a breath of fresh air to read about you giving to others in so many special ways that don’t involve plastic gift cards or expensive meals at restaurants. THANK YOU for inspiring me.

  2. I have also participated in a service auction as you describe, but there was the extra element that people could bring things with them to auction off. I got a lovely crocheted bookmark that way. The event was a big success. My item was kind of unusual, but very popular. I said that I would sew a quilt for someone, but they would have to come up with the fabric. I offered a choice of 3 patterns, took the winner to the quilt store (by her wish) and helped her choose fabric, and then sewed it up. I helped her get it professionally quilted and did the binding.

  3. Someone would have to put “clean your bathtub” and then you would have to bid on it. Each person chooses what she can give and then you bid on whatever they want to give that you want the most.

  4. I participated in a service auction several years ago. I am a Pharmacist and I volunteered to do a medication review. I would check all medications for interactions with supplements, over the counter medications, food, and other medications. It was well received.

  5. This is an frequent, but not yet annual activity in our Relief Society as well. This year our service auction was held before my surgery, so I took 2 pint jars of strawberry rhubarb jam, and a half pint jar of dehydrated parsley. The items I bid on and won, were 2 hours of weeding in my garden & doing my grocery shopping for me, both of which will soon be used, I think. One of the services offered this year was “I will teach your Primary class twice” – and that was the high bid item, won by the Primary President. I should add we have a large ward with many children & a large Primary. An apple crumble pie was auctioned off, & a “movie night” bag with a DVD, popcorn, & candy treats. It is always a popular activity, that is lots of fun.

  6. We did an auction as well. In addition to the points from the questionnaire, we got points for each service we brought to auction as well as any food brought for the food drive we were also having. I offered to make dinner for someone and to organize their kitchen. One person brought buddy passes for an airline. It was fun to see people pool their money together so the bishop’s wife could get them.

  7. I really, really love that you included a food drive with your auction. I think that is fantastic! I also like that you received points for EACH service; that would encourage people to serve more. I like your point scoring system for those items as well. If I was in charge I would definitely make those changes.

  8. I have never heard of a service auction. What a great idea this could be to raise funds. Our home child care association is always looking for new ways to raise funds. I know that your group used ‘play’ money, but I could see this done with some REAL money to help our cause. We have to have expensive PAID trainers each month give us different classes in different areas of child care. One trainer can cost $400.00. Our association is pretty small, we pay dues and do things like garage sales etc. I am going to mention this at our next association meeting. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this area.

  9. My daughter’s FFA Club (Future Farmer’s of America) has a service auction at their Greenhand Ceremony, but it is a little different. Each member is auctioned off for four hours of farm chores. They might have to clean barns/stalls, work on fencing, clean up around the yard, put up hay, etc…The bidding can get pretty high, it is all in actual cash and the money goes to the club.

  10. Including more choices for a service performed would be a great addition to the charity “silent auctions” that are common here. The different donated offerings are displayed on tables with a sign up sheet under each. Potential customers sign and place a bid on the sheets for items they are interested in. High bidder gets the item.Merchants donate nice things. Individuals offer baked goods or hand crafted items. The closest thing I’ve seen to a service is the local salon offering a free haircut or manicure.

  11. Couldn’t you have a “reverse auction” where people write down what they need help with? I could see this working also.It could be run the same way…just you are paying for a service you need. Oh…am I making any sense at all? I haven’t had my coffee yet. *smile*

  12. We did something similar to this years ago as an actual fundraiser for our youth group to go to church camp. They paired us up and auctioned us off. Whoever was the highest bidder got you for one day to do whatever they needed. My husband and our current pastor were paired up (this is when they were teenagers) and an elderly gentleman bought them to help tear down an old barn on his property. Most of the girls were auctioned off to help with spring cleaning. It was a really good way to raise money for camp, and the youth were able to help the elders with some chores that were difficult for them. Some of them enjoyed being with the elders so much that after the actual auction, they volunteered their time to help out with other things.

  13. Several years ago our ward did a service auction. I thought it was a great idea. I was so excited because I donated some homemade ice cream and I won free horse riding for my children who were young at that time. Well, I tried to cash in on that prize and she kept putting me off – saying she’d have to work it out with her daughter. After trying for a few more times, I finally gave it up. I know this activity has great potential and I love the idea. I just felt so disappointed that someone wouldn’t honor their commitment.

  14. This is a new idea for me as well, but I LOVE it! I’ve already posted it on my FB page and tagged our Preacher & his wife for a possible ladies’ or even churchwide activity! I’ve also tagged several friends to see if this would be a great activity among various friends! Thank you so much for writing about your experience! I love heard about things others are doing to see if it’s something I can incorporate into my life! I am also the Troop Coordinator of a new American Heritage Girls troop and since AHG is all about service, this would be a wonderful fund raiser!

  15. One of the reasons the service auction is such a popular activity here is because it does NOT require any funds. There is no expectation that money will be spent for the donated services. It is simply sisters sharing their talents and skills with each other, donating what they are able and receiving what someone else was willing to share. When the economy is tight, as it continues to be, this is a free form of entertainment that benefits all who participate.When my children were younger, one of them was in 4 H, and every year there was a silent auction to raise funds. We rarely participated, because our bids were never high enough to be the final bid. Service auctions come in a wide variety of descriptions, but it has been my observation that those conducted as fundraisers, for any reason, are never as successful as those done with service points, or play money, because the entire point of the service auction is for those participating to help each other without the need to spend funds from the family budget. We have families that simply cannot attend any activity with a fee, no matter how low cost, as those funds are needed to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

  16. This also in some ways reminds me of a food swap. Have you ever been to one? I have many blog posts on my blog- just type in food swap in the search box if interested. It’s not auction style though- it’s a straight one for one swap. But it’s the same principle behind it: no money exchanged, trade your talents (in the kitchen) for someone else’s. I always come home with the most amazing array of foods, many of which are new to me. It’s a great way to try something new before making a giant batch of something you might not love. KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  17. I have been in two wards that have done service auctions on an annual basis. They are always such fun events. One offer that stands out in my mind, was the offer to sew a dress. The “buyer” was responsible for providing the pattern and fabric, and the sister offering the service (a great seamstress) would sew the dress (or costume, etc).Several times I have offered to twist balloon animals (one of my random hidden talents) for a child’s birthday party. It was my husband’s idea for me to offer it as a service and it turned out to be quite popular (and fun to fulfill).I have also won some great services. One was a newborn photo shoot. I happened to be pregnant at the time and was thrilled to have professional pictures taken of my new little guy. Another time I won pony rides for a birthday party. The sister brought two of their ponies out to our house (in the boonies) for my daughter’s 5th birthday. Such fun memories!

  18. Thank you for explaining this to us. This is something new to me, but I think it is a wonderful idea. I would love to attend something like this. How great for a group of women to come together in this manner and share their time and talents.

  19. I have attended several service auctions. They usually gave the points quiz first, so the points could be totaled while we perused the service offerings. Some of the popular services I remember include a floral arrangement of home garden flowers, child care, crochet lessons, and car detailing.

  20. I have never heard of or attended one of these, but what a wonderful idea! Not only do you get to exchange services/goods with no out of pocket cost, but what a great way to fellowship & make new friends.

  21. The ward we are in does an auction for a young men’s fundraiser. Last year my two older boys donated their time for 2 oil changes. The buyer had to supply the oil and filter. The boys have their own tools and disposed the oil.My other two sons donated 4 hours of time for yard work.

  22. This is a delightful idea that will appeal to many women’s groups at our local churches and synagogues. I’ll pass it on to many!

  23. I have a long time ago…bathroom cleaning was a high bid followed by cleaning the frig and inventorying deep freezers. I remember cleaning carpets, cleaning the garage/storage units and hauling stuff away going high also. I offered home made noodles, homemade bread and taking down Christmas decorations LOL

  24. It amuses me that a homemade birthday cake was high on list for bidding. Since my girls had nothing but homemade birthday cakes, their fondest wish when they got to the teen years was for a “bakery cake.” That didn’t last too long, though. Now I take requests for the flavor of homemade birthday cakes (or, for my husband, pie.)

    I have never been to such an auction but I certainly would be interested in attending one. It wouldn’t be hard to think of services to give, either.

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