According to these 2021 giving statistics from OneCause, more than 32% of self-reported social donors have attended a fundraising event in the past year. That’s a lot of revenue collected through events like virtual or hybrid auctions, galas, and more. To maximize revenue and maintain a positive event experience, however, it’s important that you have a dedicated crew in place to pull it off.
Auctions, in particular, tend to require well built out teams to manage every aspect of the event. In order to keep costs low and drive revenue high, many nonprofits turn to volunteers to fulfill this need. Therefore, a big part of the auction planning process—that is often overlooked—is volunteer recruitment beforehand.
The best-managed events typically divide volunteers into a number of different categories or roles. This guide will review the types of volunteers you’ll need for a successful charity auction, what each role entails, and why it’s important to the overall results of the event. As you recruit event volunteers for your upcoming auction, consider the following key roles:
Handling every aspect of a charity auction from start to finish is a huge undertaking, and many organizations are choosing to combine in-person and virtual elements into hybrid events, which can be even more logistically complex. By recruiting and training dedicated volunteers ready to take on a particular task, you can set your event and fundraising teams up for success.
Ready to learn more about each type of crucial volunteer you’ll need? Let’s get started.
1. Event Coordinator or Chair
The event coordinator or chairperson is one of the most critical individuals in the event planning and management process. They take on a leadership role during the event from start to finish and essentially help coordinate the entire experience. Your event coordinator or chair should be:
- An effective communicator
- A “people person”
- Responsible and dedicated
- A good decision maker and problem solver
This individual can help recruit and organize other volunteers as well, assisting with building out the auction team and motivating individuals throughout. While this person is often a paid staff member of your organization, they might be a board member or other key volunteer as well.
2. Procurement Team
One of the most important roles in auction planning is your procurement team. This team will likely be made up of a combination of staff members and volunteers and will play a huge part in ensuring you have enough strategically chosen auction items to place up for bid when the event arrives.
These people should:
- Be well-connected in the community. Your procurement team will likely have more luck soliciting items for your auction if they have existing connections with major donors and business partners.
- Have experience with asking for donations. Asking for donations can be nerve wracking, especially if it’s the first time. Looking for individuals with fundraising experience (particularly with auctions, if possible) sets your team up for success.
- Be personable, friendly, and passionate about your cause. These people will be soliciting donations from those in your community, so it’s critical that they have good people skills to fall back on. They should be confident and willing to share why your fundraising needs are so important as well.
Having a team in place to solicit high demand auction items from donors and corporate partners is critical for ensuring your auction is a success. Once you have your procurement team ready to go, it’s important to get started soliciting items early on in the event planning process.
3. Fundraising Ambassadors
Fundraising ambassadors are the perfect addition to any charity auction, and they’re one of the strongest peer-to-peer fundraising strategies.
As you look for the perfect individuals to promote your event, consider the following characteristics of an optimal ambassador:
- Significant online presence and networking skills: Since many tasks involved in event ambassadorship involve promoting your auction online, it’s a good idea to seek out individuals who already have a strong online presence. This way, their social shares and other online communications will go farther and reach more potential guests.
- Engaged with your cause: Those who are already engaged with your cause, such as board members, volunteers, and mid-size and major donors, will be more passionate about your organization and, by extension, your upcoming auction. People can tell when someone else is truly invested in a cause and will be more likely to want to get involved themselves—this is called social proof, and it’s a powerful motivator for new supporters.
Recruiting fundraising ambassadors for your upcoming auction gives you more control over those who will be representing your organization and allows you to expand your reach significantly. By leveraging existing supporters’ networks of friends and family, you can invite new individuals to attend your event who might otherwise have never heard of you.
4. Venue Set-Up and Tear-Down
If you’re hosting a hybrid or fully in-person event, your set-up and tear-down teams handle a lot of the logistics when it comes to preparing the venue. This might mean setting up tables and chairs, decorating the area, and putting items on display with bid sheets for a silent auction.
As you build this team, look for individuals who are:
- Physically able to bend, reach, and carry a decent amount of weight
- Dependable and willing to show up on time and stay throughout the duration of the event
- Ready to participate in some of the more “grunt work” involved in running an auction
Some nonprofits might use the same team for both set-up and tear-down, while others will choose to split them out into separate groups. Depending on the number of willing volunteers you have at your disposal, bringing a new team in for clean up at the end of the auction can be great for boosting energy when engagement levels might be faltering.
5. Ticket Sales and Check-In/Out
Your ticket sales, registration, and check-in teams are some of the first faces that event attendees will see upon arriving, while your check-out team is likely going to be the last. That means this volunteer role is critical for forming positive first and last impressions on guests.
As such, look for individuals who are:
- Warm and welcoming personalities
- Knowledgeable about your registration and ticketing solutions
- Organized and detail oriented
Luckily, your fundraising software should completely streamline these tasks. Many of your guests will likely have purchased their event tickets and pre-registered online beforehand, while automatic check-in and payment processing functionality simplifies these processes as well.
So why do you still need volunteers to fill these roles? Your check-in and check-out teams will mostly be in place to oversee the process, answer questions from attendees, troubleshoot any issues, and provide a more personalized guest experience.
6. Tech Team
Having the right technology is important for any auction, but is especially critical for virtual and hybrid events. Equally as important, however, is having proficient members on your event team who are able to use your technology effectively. These individuals should:
- Have experience using your event software
- Be excellent problem solvers
- Work well under pressure
It’s important that your tech team is available to help run your software during the event as well as troubleshoot when things go awry. Your software provider might be able to offer additional support as well, but having a tech guru on site or on virtual standby during your auction is always a good idea.
7. Emcee and/or Auctioneer
Last but certainly not least, every auction needs an emcee and/or an auctioneer. After all, having the right emcee or auctioneer for your event is critical for driving engagement—and bids—through the roof.
While you might have heard the terms used interchangeably in the past, an emcee and an auctioneer are not the same. Here’s a basic overview of the two positions:
- The emcee facilitates the event more generally. An emcee, or master of ceremonies, serves as the host of your event, welcomes guests, and works to keep attendees’ attention throughout the night. You’ll need an emcee for any type of auction, whether it’s a virtual, hybrid, or in-person silent or live auction.
- The auctioneer handles live bidding in an organized and engaging way. This role comes in specifically during the live auction portion of the night (if you’re including one) and is the person in charge of auctioning off items, accepting bids, and declaring items sold when won.
Depending on the size and scope of your event, your emcee and auctioneer might be the same person wearing multiple hats, or you might recruit a separate individual for each role. If they’re two people, they’ll likely be working very closely together.
Having multiple volunteers functioning as emcees and auctioneers is most common for large-scale live auction events targeting high-value donors, while smaller-scale events typically employ a single emcee/auctioneer. Additionally, hybrid auctions might even recruit multiple emcees so that each audience (virtual and in-person) has their own.
Regardless, these individuals should have bright, energizing personalities in order to drive engagement high throughout the event and incite bid wars when the time comes.
Planning and running a charity auction involves juggling a lot of moving parts, and it’s almost certainly too much to handle for one person. When you have dedicated volunteers willing to support your efforts, however, managing your auction fundraiser can be a breeze.
Just remember, recruiting and preparing your auction volunteers can be a lengthy undertaking, so be sure to begin the recruitment process early. Good luck!
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.