Gather to Give

Published on 21 Nov 2022 by Auctria

When you hear “it takes a village” Deb Wheeler and her team answer the call with “we are your village!” Out of Kootenai County, in northern Idaho is a special group of volunteers that help many of the local nonprofit organizations raise money. They specialize in auction and fundraising events, volunteering their time and expertise to support a wide variety of charitable organizations:

  • Post Falls Food Bank
  • Kootenai Humane Society
  • Private Schools
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
  • Crisis Centers
  • Senior Living Communities

These nonprofits all have one thing in common, their supporters will always gather to give and whenever they do Deb and her team will be there to help with check-in, check-out and general fundraising and event day support.

Deb’s team consists of 8-10 ladies who volunteer for these nonprofit auctions. Usually 3-5 women work each auction, depending on anticipated attendance. Most of these women are managers of their own businesses or organizations and have a heart to give back to the community. Deb will also help organizations with set up and reconciliation after the auction if needed.

Deb and her team have this down to science. The key factors to fundraising for these groups are:

  • Gather to give, recognizing those who are passionate about your cause
  • Auction items that appeal to your audience
  • Be organized and prepared for any unexpected event day incident

Kootenai County is an area known as the Panhandle of Idaho, surrounded by scenic mountains and beautiful lakes. Event fundraisers work here because this community has a big heart and a willingness to give to those who are in need. When creating a fundraising event there are two goals. The first is to raise awareness for the cause and the second is to raise money for the cause. When giving people a reason to gather, they give!

Donations for auction items are vital to the success of the event. Deb says “our attendees love to bid and win.” The more desirable the items, the more people will bid on them pushing the final bids as high as possible. Some organizations combine an online auction with their silent auction items, the week before the actual event thereby giving even a wider audience an opportunity to play and win.

Live auction items that do well consistently include:

  • Private dinners and experiences
  • Dining classes and experiences
  • Sporting event packages
  • High end craft goods like decorated Christmas trees, handmade quilts, etc.
  • Day trip activities, such as a day at the lake or snow skiing
  • Vacation packages

Raffles and games at an event do really well, too.

The more fun the better! Raffles that sell well are:

  • Wine Tree
  • Beer Wagon
  • Specialty Dining
  • Specialty Desserts or Champagne

Paddle Raise

No event fundraiser is complete without a paddle raise. The reason people are gathering is to give. The paddle raise is moving way for the audience to give at whatever level they can afford. Prior to the paddle raise, sharing real stories from real people helps the audience understand the reason they are gathered to give. When the paddle raise begins you can feel the power; every paddle raised shows someone’s generosity.

Deb explains that a great fundraising event starts weeks before the day of the event with the clerical activities of inputting donors and auction items, pricing items for lots of bids, having bidder’s information put in the system before the event and promoting the event in advance.

One of the secrets of a smooth running event is to be organized and prepared for any unexpected event day incident! There is a lot of action during the event here is a sample time frame:

  • Check-in; Streamlining ticket sales and registration prior to guests arriving at the door makes for a quick check-in process, so that guests do not have to stand in line and can be inside the room using those bidder numbers! Capturing a guest’s credit card at the door is a must.
  • In-room sales; Silent auction items, raffle tickets, golden tickets, specialty drink sales all increase the bottom line for making money. Having these available for sale and more importantly, easy to purchase with a bid number, with trained volunteers to make the giving fun.
  • Dinner and/or speaker: during this time the input team can record all of the raffle/game/sales into Auctria.
  • Live auction and paddle raise; Spotters are prepared with forms to record final bids and the winning bidder numbers on live auction items and also record bidder numbers for the paddle raise. Those recording sheets are taken back to the input team to record into Auctria so it all goes into the bidder’s account for easy collection at check-out.

Here are examples of the live bid sheet blanks and paddle raise forms that Deb created to use at every auction and event fundraiser that the team volunteers for.


Be ready for anything

The smoothest way to handle any event, large or small, is to plan for everything, and to expect that something will come up that you did not anticipate! This includes the physical logistics and supplies needed at the event. Besides computers for everyone and a small printer, a Go-Bag (with wheels!) is a fundamental part of the process. The bag contains everything that may be needed by the volunteers to work seamlessly. Taking a peek into the bag you will find:

  • Hot spot
  • Extension cords
  • Surge protectors
  • USB credit card swipes
  • Computer mice and extra batteries
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters, tape, scissors
  • Paper clips, rubber bands, binder clips
  • Small legal pads of paper and post it notes
  • Envelopes, bank bag for money
  • Copy paper, colored paper
  • Extra blank bid sheets and summary sheets
  • Extra blank live auction recording sheets and blank paddle raise sheets
  • Event timeline and notes for the check-in team
  • Of course, extra reading glasses!


Kootenai County is so very lucky to have this team of volunteers who raise their hands and say, “YES, we will help!” They love working together and are a well-oiled machine when it comes to Auction organizing, check in, data input, in room sales and check out. They have come together in partnership with the community to help these incredible nonprofit organizations who do so much to improve the lives of others.

Are there a group of volunteers in your community that may want to do the same?

Special thanks to Deb Wheeler and her team for sharing their auction and event fundraising story. Congratulations on making such a positive impact and changing lives!