It’s one thing to learn a software program and procure auction items, it’s a totally different matter managing volunteers.
Almost every non-profit relies upon volunteers, but never more heavily than when it comes to pulling together a big auction fundraiser. Organizing a great volunteer team can make or break your event. It takes skill and a soft-touch to encourage and lead others who are working for you without pay, and even harder when they are your peers and friends. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, this requires a great balancing act on the part of the auction or event chair.
We’ve gathered some of the best tips from experts, and some of our own, to help you organize your volunteers for your next big fundraising event.
1. BE ORGANIZED (WELL, DUH!) – The best way to organize your volunteers is to be organized yourself. There is nothing worse than calling a meeting and then not be prepared to provide those who show up with details, concrete plans, and set action steps. Have a clear plan, written out on paper with timelines, specific goals and specific deadlines. Divide volunteers into categories – those who can help throughout the planning and lead up; those who can help intermittently; and those who can only help on the day of the event. Then give each volunteer a specific job, a specific deadline and a direct contact within your organization when questions arise.
Use BidCoz to manage everything. Tickets, auction items, and even volunteers.
2. NOT EVERYONE FITS EVERY JOB – This is a touchy subject because we love all volunteers. But, let’s face it, not all personalities are meant to be in a volunteer role. You have to be able to spot these guys and gals early. They are generally type A personalities that like to be in charge, and don’t like to take direction. The way to manage these folks is to give them a job that they can “control,” possibly something they can do on their own. If you put them in the right position, they will do their job really well. But, if you give them a job they aren’t suited for, they (one bad apple) could potentially spoil the whole bunch.
3. BE FLEXIBLE – You may lots of people who want to help but who may have limited time. Find jobs that people can volunteer for, both big and small. For a great example, my child’s school sent out an email asking if anyone might be willing to stop at a few shops and restaurants to pick up auction items. That is a very easy way to pull volunteers in from around the area and get them to just pick up items on their way to and from school or work. Look for small ways to get people involved in your event.
Use the Signup component in BidCoz to create tasks and allow volunteers to sign up for the jobs they can do.
4. COMMUNICATE! – Don’t ask for volunteers and then go silent…that is, until two days before the event when you’re in panic mode. It’s easy to send an email. Plan to send regular emails to keep all volunteers informed of the team’s activities. Treat those emails like a staff memo, giving your team details about what things have to be done, who is doing them, when they are doing them, and when the task is expected to be completed. There will be less confusion and more will get done. This also cuts down on calls asking what they can do for you or what they were supposed to be doing but forgot.
The Signup component in BidCoz will help remind volunteers what they signed up for and when it’s due. Also, send updates and info with the custom email tool.
5. GIVE BACK – Volunteers work out of the goodness of their heart, so out of the goodness of your heart (and your organization’s “heart”) give them something for their efforts. Look at your auction fundraiser’s financial goals and see if you can offer volunteers a discount off their tickets to the event. This may get more people to volunteer and get even more people to the event itself.
Set up discount codes in the Ticket’s component and give to volunteers. Let BidCoz make it easy to give the gift and keep up with who is coming to your event.
6. BE RESPONSIVE – This is a tip for dealing with volunteers, but it really applies to every aspect of business and personal interactions. Be responsive. If a volunteer emails you, email them back promptly. It doesn’t have to be in three minutes, but it should be within a day or so. If a volunteer leaves you a message, return the call. If a volunteer stops in to see you or is completing a task for you, stop to recognize their efforts and thank them. You have no idea how far this will go and how much they will appreciate your responsiveness.
7. THANK THEM – Even if you cannot offer your volunteers a discount (or free) ticket to your event, you can say thank you. You can bring snacks to a work session, you can send thank you notes – actual hand-written notes in the snail mail! – you can recognize them at your event. Volunteers are donating their time, which we all know is invaluable. So, if you’re thanking your donors, don’t forget to thank your volunteers too.
A great experience for your volunteers means they may volunteer again. Volunteers that have gone through the process once will be even better the next time.