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Prepare Your Special Event Volunteers with these FAQs

In Improving the Volunteer Experience at Special Events, I suggested giving volunteers a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) before the start of an event so that they are better prepared and have a more enjoyable volunteer experience. Below are a few common
questions about special events.

  • My friend couldn’t attend, can I get a refund for her ticket? I recommend a standard no-refund policy that is clearly posted wherever you sell tickets. Otherwise, people buy tickets in advance to make sure that they can attend the event if they want, but then may cancel too close to the event for you to resell the tickets or cancel the food you've ordered for them.  You may want to offer a credit toward your next event in lieu of a refund.
  • When does the auction end? Every volunteer should know when the auction is expected to end but should also explain to guests that the time is fluid. Guests can get irate if they are outbid on an item when it is past the time you told them the auction was closing.
  • Do I have to be present to be a winning bidder for an auction item? You will get more bidders if they don’t have to be present to win. Of course, this means more work for the charity to organize a pick-up schedule or shipments.  You should clarify that winners pay the shipping costs.
  • Who do I contact to schedule this once-in-a-lifetime experience auction item? For auction items like vacation getaways and other types of experiences, prepare a sheet that includes a contact name, number, and a detailed description of the auction item that you give to the winning bidder.  Let volunteers know that the winning bidders will receive this information.  Always keep copies of the takeaway sheets so that you are clear on what you promised.
  • Is the auction item tax-deductible? Are the tickets tax-deductible? Any amount a guest pays that is greater than the fair market value of the purchase price is eligible for a tax-deduction. If a ticket costs $150 but the fair market value of the ticket (food, drinks, etc.) is $50 then $100 is eligible for a tax-deduction. The IRS requires that a charity disclose a good faith estimate of the fair market value of an item to the donor at the time of solicitation or purchase.  The IRS calls these quid pro quo contributions and has a lot to say on the subject. Click here to learn more about quid pro quo contributions on the IRS's web site.
  • Where are the bathrooms? Pretty self-explanatory and one of the most popular questions. If the  event is in a private home, it is important to clarify if any bathrooms,
    or other areas, are off-limits when the guests enter the estate.
  • When does the performer go on? Again, like the closing time for the auction, I recommend offering guests the anticipated time with a warning that the real-time may change.
  • Is this a cash bar? Often beer and wine are free at charity events but hard-liquor is not. If it’s really cash only, with no credit cards accepted, be specific. Fewer people carry cash these days.

Try keeping your FAQ cheat sheet to no more than 10 questions with crisp, clear answers.  More than that and it becomes increasingly unlikely that the volunteers will remember the details. Once you create your first FAQ sheet, you have a template that you can easily modify for future events. Save a copy in a folder you create for all your special event templates. You'll be happily surprised at how much time this folder will save you during
the planning of future events.

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