Silent Auction Tips

Best Practices for Managing your Silent Auction Volunteers

Volunteers can add a ton of value to your fundraising event's silent auction, but only if they're properly trained. Handbid's CEO shares some tips on how to best find, manage, and train great volunteers.
Volunteers can add a ton of value to your fundraising event's silent auction, but only if they're properly trained. Handbid's CEO shares some tips on how to best find, manage, and train great volunteers.

While we do staff events at Handbid, we always recommend that our clients bring in just a few senior staff from the mobile bidding company and supplement the rest with volunteers. After all, in many cases, volunteers will be more passionate (and often more qualified) than the temp staff your mobile bidding company will bring to your event. 

However, selecting and managing your volunteers can be tricky. After all, they are not getting paid, so they are showing up and working only out of the kindness of their hearts. So how do you find great volunteers?

Here are some pointers.

Finding and Training Great Volunteers

1) Don't start by just drafting volunteers for your parent or constituent population if you can avoid it. 

Why? Well, parents forced to volunteer may begrudgingly agree, or work out of obligation from their child, but they won't be your most passionate workforce. Instead, look for people who really do want to "volunteer.” Consider promoting the volunteer role to young, passionate students.

2) Be specific about the work and the skill sets needed.  

Match skill sets and personality with job types. Put volunteers who are on time, friendly, and skilled with computers at your event's check-in tables. You want your guests' first experience to be pleasant and efficient. No angry ogres, robots, or hunt-and-peckers manning your check-in lines.  

Happy volunteer looking at donation box on a sunny day

3) Train your Volunteers to maximize success!

How do you make sure your volunteers are prepared to do the job well? The answer is easy: PLANNING!

In an ideal scenario, we recommend you acquire your volunteers about 3 months out from the event date. Make sure they're 100% committed to your event and have a clear understanding of their responsibilities. An ideal volunteer would be:

  • Comfortable making eye contact with guests
  • Has a hospitality-based approach to interacting with guests
  • Is appropriately dressed
  • Is comfortable typing on a laptop
  • Is comfortable helping people with their smartphone
  • Is reliable and on time
  • Is comfortable asking questions if they don't know the answer

Other Essentials for Managing Silent Auction Volunteers

Why You Should Run a Test Auction

One of the best ways to train volunteers is to set up a Test Auction one week before your event, order some pizzas and invite volunteers for an hour to hour-and-a-half training. During this training, volunteers can register each other to your Test Auction, place bids from an iPad, check people in, assign table numbers, help with bidding, watch an auction close, and mark invoices closed with cash or check. Organizations who go through this process have an excellent experience on the "night-of”.

If time and availability are an issue, you can try using technology for your Test Auction. Walk your volunteer team with Handbid's professional staff in a 1-hour screen share training. Anyone can attend AND these trainings can be recorded for later viewings. Volunteers can see the software in action and ask questions even though everyone is connecting remotely!

Another idea is to send the volunteers an email with videos and articles to review from Handbid's Knowledge Base. These articles and videos can range from check-in procedures & checkout procedures to how to operate the iPad to help guests place bids. If they review the videos before event night, then they will feel more comfortable and confident on event night.

What about the night of the event?

On event night, either someone from Handbid (should you choose to hire us for OnSite Support) or someone from your Organization should be in charge of reviewing the software with the volunteers at least an hour before the event. Give them a chance to ask questions and get excited about their role that night. They will sense that from you and it will make a huge difference!

Don't forget to thank them for all of their support and express to them the importance of their role within your Organization, as a volunteer! And -- if time and budget allow -- plan to feed them. These events can go on for hours and hours, so planning to give them a break to eat is a great idea.

Our hope is that this prepared Volunteer will leave your event excited about your Cause, then for your next event, they will show up ready to work...and with two friends in tow!

And we would be remiss if we didn't get you one last piece of advice that is sure to get your volunteers to "volunteer” again!

Give your volunteers breaks and food for their efforts!

Consider letting them eat and drink after their shift; and when we say "eat”, we mean the food the guests are eating, not the cold pizza in the back room (leave the cold pizza for your mobile bidding company staff!). 

If you just can't swing the "guest food” idea, at least consider giving them some decent food and allowing them to have a drink if you are serving alcohol.  This will make them feel right at home, appreciated, and likely to come back.  

Make it clear when it is time to work vs. play

Create shifts that eliminate transitions during critical times yet give your volunteers the breaks they need. Let's face it, your volunteers will work, but they are also going to want some time to enjoy your event. 

While you can (and should) let them eat and partake in the refreshments at your event, please ask that they do so after their shift is complete. You don't want your volunteers getting up in the middle of a busy check-in to refill their wine glass; and worst of all, you don't want to change volunteer shifts in the middle of check-in!

Consider these tips and you will be well on your way to fostering a solid group of event volunteers and eliminating your reliance on temp staff from your mobile bidding company.

Remember, the execution of your auction can make a big impact on how much bidding is happening, and how high the bidding goes on any or all of your items.

Understanding simple concepts about auctions can make a big impact on the overall funds raised at your event. Get our Silent Auction Tips eBook for seven tips on how to run a better auction and ultimately raise more money for your organization.