Building Your Dream Team & Choosing the Next Auction Chair

06 Jan 2016 By Miranda Hansen

It’s a new calendar year and some of you may already be looking ahead at next school year’s auction. It’s time to start thinking about building your team. Or it could even be time for the auction chair to find (gasp!) a replacement. Let’s take an inside look at our handy e-book The Guide to Running a Fundraising Auction…and maintaining your sanity. Chapter 2 covers strategies for staffing your event committee. Because we all know we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.

As any experienced auction chair knows, for several months (even a year!) leading up to event night, you’ll work alongside a group of key people to make your school auction goals a reality. The team you put together will not only make or break the success of your fundraiser, but also will impact the level of enthusiasm (and charitable giving) within your school or organization.

Building the right kind of team is the critically important task, and it doesn’t have to be burdensome if you have a structure in place.

Here are three tips that apply to the overall process of recruiting volunteers to help you:

  1. Start Small. If you can’t readily find someone to take over the top spots – Auction Chair, Co-Chair or Procurement Chair – focus your efforts on filling the smaller jobs. After all, who wouldn’t rather take over a well-staffed organization than a startup?

  2. Make It Personal. Rather than posting flyers or mailing a long list of tasks to be accomplished, if you can make a personal ask of someone to do one job the odds of getting a volunteer commitment increase dramatically. Teambuilding is all about relationships, so take the time to initiate personal conversations with people with whom you share a commitment to your school or organization and who you think would make good team members. Also, when you ask for a commitment be sure to point out the reasons you think the person would be a great fit for the team, such as their leadership skills, enthusiasm, team building capacities, etc.

  3. Define the Roles It’s a lot easier to ask a volunteer to do a job that has a beginning and end, and a well-defined job description. In general, most auction teams don’t clearly articulate the job descriptions, nor do they limit the responsibilities, of key positions. This often results in having three or four people doing 80% of the work, which very quickly leads to volunteer burnout. It’s easier to find 10 people to take on well-defined, manageable jobs than it is to find two people who are willing to take on the whole thing. And you’re less likely to burn people out.

Choosing the Next Auction Chair

Chairing an auction is a huge commitment and an even bigger job. Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy to find willing volunteers for tasks that are well-defined and require limited time…which is the secret to recruiting next year’s leader, and next year’s team.

The auction chair is the event point person. Filling this key position may seem daunting at first but, if you adhere to the job description, you’ll discover how the work of the auction team is shared evenly and with great results. Think about people in your school or organization who have the kind of qualities that would naturally make him or her a good event chairperson. To be effective, an event chair takes a big picture view of the organization and its fundraising goals. This is a person who can remain connected to projected outcomes while also being fully present to the details of the moment. They understand how to delegate, and are flexible enough to allow for adjustments along the way.

Event chair responsibilities include:

  • Recruitment, support and oversight of all committee chairs and managers
  • Motivating and inspiring committee chairs and members
  • Troubleshooting anything that comes up
  • Final decision-making power on event theme, decorations, menu and entertainment
  • Maintaining and updating all event-related documents and records
  • Calling and/or corresponding with past and present donors and supporters
  • Planning for a smooth succession by effectively mentoring and training the next “generation” of committee chairs and next year’s auction team

These team building tips are just the tip of the iceberg! Find a complete list of key positions with definitions and more in depth notes for filling those roles starting at Page 16 in our guide. And please let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you in building your dream team.

Remember: “Teamwork Makes Your Dream Work,” and happy volunteers make all the difference in the world to your bottom line revenue. You can get the most out of your volunteers and build goodwill around your event by clearing defining roles and job descriptions. For best results, choose your team wisely and draw good boundary lines around the key positions, limiting their responsibilities. Keep them happy, and they’ll keep coming back.