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Auctioning Off Time

On July 9, 2009, $7,000 worth of products and services will be auctioned off at the first Vancouver Time Auction. The Time Auction raises funds for non-profits with a twist. Instead of bidding money, participants bid volunteer hours for the charity of their choice. The person willing to commit the highest number of volunteer hours wins the prize.

The Vancouver Time Auction will be held in the Student Union Building at UBC from 6:00 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, July 9, 2009. The event is being run by the Vancouver Time Auction Team in partnership with the UBC International Business Club. More than 100 people are expected to attend.

David Wen, a student at Queen’s University, is the Head Coordinator of the Vancouver Time Auction. He began organizing time auctions under the banner of, a social networking site for philanthropic work that he co-founded. The first Time Auction was held in Kingston, Ontario in 2007 and raised 705 volunteer hours for local charities.

Iman Rahmim, one of the founders of the martial arts school Versus 21, explained that that he is excited by the way in which the auction’s unusual format enables lower-income members of the community, like university students, to participate.

“It’s great to be able to give volunteers something as a token of appreciation for giving their time to the community. That’s why I gladly donated $1200 in memberships,” Rahmim said, as he also noted the benefit of the Time Auction from a marketing standpoint.

The items up for grab include a free psychic reading, a $500 skincare package, and a buy-one-get-one-free cruise down the Nile. So, what if the number of hours raised does not correspond to the value of the products and services being auctioned?

Antoine Mandy, the auctioneer for the event, explained that it is important for local businesses and other prize donors to see that their item sells for its true value. If it does not, the event will not grow. However, Mandy is optimistic about the concept of time as currency.

“I’ve been an auctioneer for a while and I’ve discovered that when you switch the currency to something people aren’t familiar with […] it opens up people’s spending habits.”

For his part, Rahmim is not concerned. “I don’t think anyone will bid what they think the donation is worth,” he said. “I think people are more concerned about the cause. Hopefully our donation will be the icing on the cake.”

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