Planning a charity auction can be a challenge, which is why having the right people power is incredibly important. But this isn’t just limited to your nonprofit’s employees. It also includes the volunteers who help make your event run smoothly.
Engaging your volunteers is an essential step to take when running a charity auction event. If you don’t successfully include them in your planning and execution, they’ll be less likely to feel fully connected, and your volunteer retention rate could fall as a result.
Just as picking the right charity auction items will contribute to your event’s success, implementing the right volunteer engagement strategy will do the same. This is why we’ve compiled some best practices to incorporate when working with volunteers at your charity auction:
- Train your volunteers.
- Build relationships.
- Match assignments to skill sets.
- Recognize hard work.
Putting the time and effort into perfecting your volunteer management for your event will be well worth it. Are you ready to take a closer look at these strategies to successfully engage your volunteers? Let’s get started!
1. Train your volunteers.
The first step toward engaging your volunteers involves getting them comfortable with their roles. Sufficient training is important because your volunteers are often the face of your fundraising, so they need to be able to provide a seamless experience for guests. Invest the right amount of time in training and you’ll set them and your event up for success!
When it comes to your charity auction specifically, there are many ways you can prepare your volunteers for their roles:
- Train them on item procurement. You never know when you’ll need some extra helping hands! Provide training for your volunteers on procuring auction items in case your procurement staff needs assistance with the process. Or, you might create a procurement team entirely made of volunteers. For more information on this process, check out this guide to auction item procurement.
- Train them on your software. Make sure your volunteers know how to use the charity auction software you’ll be utilizing (if applicable), in case an event attendee asks them about it. This way, anyone will be prepared to answer questions and there won’t be uncertainties.
- Train them on service. At your charity auction event, there will undoubtedly be attendees with miscellaneous questions or concerns. Be sure your volunteers are trained on how to interact with your attendees and graciously answer any queries.
Charity auctions take many forms and have several moving parts. This means it’s essential that you give your volunteers the assistance they need so they can better assist others. Stay on top of your volunteers by providing sufficient training so that your charity auction runs as smoothly as possible.
2. Build relationships.
Just as you would cultivate relationships with your organization’s donor base, it’s important to also build relationships with your volunteers. A higher volunteer retention rate means you won’t have to spend as much time training new volunteers, and you’ll also have a network of active supporters who are already very familiar with and support your mission. 45% of social donors said they had volunteered with an organization before making a donation—these relationships are important!
In order to build lasting relationships with your volunteers, consider the following:
- Offer discounted tickets. If you have a network of loyal volunteers who won’t be working this particular event, reward them by offering free or discounted tickets to the charity auction. You can use a customized event registration form to do this.
- Create special t-shirts. Make sure your volunteers stand out from the crowd with custom t shirts that clearly show their affiliation with your organization. They’ll feel like they’re part of your nonprofit and attendees will know who to go to when they have a question!
- Offer room for growth. If your volunteers are interested in developing more skills or want to try something different at this event than they have in the past, offer opportunities for this. For example, give them ways to grow their skill set and learn more about mobile bidding software, your CRM, or anything else they may be interested in.
- Listen to feedback. Solicit feedback from your volunteers about how the event went and ask how you can improve for next time. Be sure to actively listen and incorporate the feedback as appropriate and necessary. This will make your volunteers feel even more valued.
Making your volunteers feel valued and included is the key to building long-term relationships with them. Doing this will not only help increase your volunteer retention rate, but also keep the people who care about your mission close to your organization, helping build long-term relationships.
3. Make assignments based on skill sets.
No two volunteers are the same. That’s why assigning certain tasks should be dependent on a particular volunteer’s skill set. If you give out assignments based on a volunteer’s strengths, they will be more likely to carry out that task efficiently and without much needed supervision.
Take some time to get to know your volunteers and divide up the tasks based on traits like the following:
- Tech-savvy volunteers. Volunteers who are comfortable using technology are great candidates to help your event attendees troubleshoot any issues with the charity auction software you may be using.
- Extroverted volunteers. More outgoing volunteers are a great group to have assist attendees on the floor, check people in if needed, direct people to their tables, etc. People who are comfortable interacting with others can help make the event livelier and make the attendees feel welcome and connected to the fundraising.
- Introverted volunteers. Those on the quieter side can still have a great impact on the event. Have these volunteers help run behind-the-scenes tasks, like tracking the bidding results and procuring items with your procurement team beforehand.
- Creative volunteers. Have your more creative volunteers assist with marketing materials for the auction and find other ways to promote the event. These volunteers can help you attract attendees by putting their design and promotional skills to work.
You’ll also need help with setting up, monitoring auction tables (if you’re running a silent auction), security, cleaning up, and following up with bidders after the event. Be sure to designate these tasks to the volunteers most suited for it. If you have a few meticulous and organized volunteers, for example, they would be great candidates to coordinate writing and sending thank-you notes to attendees and donors.
By empowering your volunteers and tailoring each experience to their strengths, you’ll help ensure that they’re ready to perform their roles, and make your event successful. Conduct brief surveys of volunteers to identify their interests, for example. If everyone is on board with what they’re doing for your auction, this will help the event run smoother and more efficiently.
4. Recognize volunteers for their hard work.
One of the most important parts of your volunteer engagement strategy should include recognizing volunteers for their time and hard work. Highlighting great work is both encouraging and a great way to keep volunteers coming back.
Check out these effective ways to recognize volunteers for their work:
- Measure their impact. Highlight how your fundraising goal was met by the help of your volunteers. For example, because your tech-savvy volunteers were there to help with mobile bidding issues, more bids were submitted and more money was raised.
- Include volunteers in newsletters. Summarize the success of your event in your newsletter and/or showcase some top volunteers who helped make it happen. Shining a spotlight on your volunteers will inspire them to keep participating and encourage others to try and reach those milestones, too.
- Keep them motivated. Keep your volunteers informed about any new strategies and developments within your organization. Make them feel like they’re essential parts of your team—because they are.
- Host an after-event party for your volunteers. Plan a volunteer-only event to celebrate and recognize various volunteers’ accomplishments. This is a great way to further establish a sense of community among your volunteers and make them feel valued and included.
Recognition goes a long way when it comes to managing and engaging with your volunteers. If you take these steps to encourage and motivate them, as well as make them feel involved, you’ll help foster a great volunteer environment, which could attract even more great volunteers in the future.
Beyond that, you’ll create a positive atmosphere at your event. If your volunteers are happy and motivated, your guests will be, too.
Running a charity auction doesn’t have to become overwhelming if you have the right people to help you navigate it. Your volunteers are an important asset to your organization and should be treated as such. Offer the right training and encouragement and make them feel involved, and you’ll be on your way to a successful event and volunteer program.
Author: Joshua Meyer
Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.