Treat Your Volunteers As Donors


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Would it surprise you to know that 79% of volunteers give to charity compared to 40% of non-volunteers? (Giving USA Foundation 2014*)

Get your Volunteers Fired up!

Treat your volunteers as donors

They love you and are already on your team. Your volunteers are ready to serve you now and long into the future. Volunteers are the heart, soul and backbone of benefit auctions. Here are some tips to develop and recognize a dynamic volunteer team for your benefit auctions.

Recruit active leaders as auction committee co-chairs

Great auction co-chairs are a must! Select them for their leadership qualities and their circle of influence. Consider recruiting co-chairs who represent different backgrounds. This broadens the composition of committees, diversifies and grows donor and guest lists. Great co-chairs set a positive tone, delegate well and keep everything on track.

Recruit a large team of committed volunteers

Auctions are one of the most volunteer-intensive fundraisers. You’ll need 20-50+ volunteers, depending on the size of the event: key decision makers in the auction steering committee, sub-committees, and dozens of day-of-auction volunteers.

Write clearly-defined committee and volunteer tasks

Prepare written job descriptions of all tasks. Identify exactly what each job requires and how much time is needed. Be specific so that your volunteers can select the best task for themselves. A high-functioning, enthusiastic team is vital for auction success.

Plan the meeting schedule for the entire year at the first meeting

Insist that everyone place the entire year’s meeting schedule on their calendar at the first meeting. The secret to success is to involve as many committed volunteers, board members and staff ASAP and give them clear, written communications.

Make it easy for volunteers to know what is expected of them

Develop a Volunteer Auction Packet (VAP) with all the auction information. Include: auction event fact sheet; master-planning checklist with key action dates; goals, budget, volunteer job descriptions, brochures, lots of item solicitation forms, letters from your president, timelines, and all related material.  Distribute and follow up often with new information or changes.

Give lots of recognition, thanks and great food!

Keep up the enthusiasm throughout the many months of auction planning. Support each volunteer: write thank you notes; call each one personally to tell them how much you appreciate their efforts; provide refreshments at all meetings and auction night. Solicit sponsors to cover volunteer meals. Make sure they are well fed! List each volunteer in catalog. Hold special prize drawings and have fun too!


(*Giving USA Foundation (2014).  The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2013.  Indiana University Lilly Family  School of Philanthropy: Indianapolis, Indiana.)

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