Home » 12 Volunteer Appreciation Gifts (and Ideas) to Boost Morale

12 Volunteer Appreciation Gifts (and Ideas) to Boost Morale

Volunteer appreciation gifts are the perfect way of expressing gratitude to volunteers while retaining and growing your support base. Although volunteering has many benefits and volunteers are generally happy to serve, they still need to know that you are thankful for their efforts.

When volunteers feel appreciated and that their work has made a difference, they are more likely to resonate with your cause and continue their involvement with your organization. Nonprofits largely depend on volunteers giving their time and contributing to the day-to-day running of their core activities.

The demand for volunteers continues to grow even as nonprofits strive to stay afloat and, at the same time, make a sustainable impact. Thankfully, volunteer appreciation through an organizational culture that values them and volunteer-specific appreciation efforts remain a key strategy for volunteer attraction and retention.

Benefits of Volunteer Appreciation

Letting these generous individuals know you appreciate them and their efforts is essential for the sustained success of your organization. Happy volunteers keep coming back and eventually become passionate advocates of your work and mission to their families, friends, and the community. This helps you to build meaningful networks with potential employees, volunteers, and donors.

Key benefits of appreciating your volunteers include:

  • Enhances volunteer morale and productivity
  • Increases volunteer satisfaction and retention
  • Encourages new volunteers to join
  • Boosts volunteer engagement


Volunteer Appreciation Gift Ideas

There are myriad ways to show gratitude and appreciate volunteers. While it's the thought that counts, a healthy combination of both large and small efforts are highly effective and keep volunteers coming again and again.

Here we have made a brief rundown of the best volunteer appreciation gifts and ideas to make your volunteers feel special and appreciated for what they do.

1. Weekly Volunteers Award

Like everyone else, volunteers love to feel honored and that they have a positive impact on your mission. You can recognize the role of your volunteers in your mission by highlighting one volunteer weekly or monthly.

And you don't need to play favorites. Instead, select one volunteer, highlight their achievements, and offer them a small token of appreciation, no matter how little. Repeat this until every volunteer is featured, then start over again at random.

Creating rewards or honor badges pushes volunteers to go above and beyond. You may also want to customize each reward to the volunteer's accomplishments.

A volunteer management system empowers each volunteer to log their own hours with ease while streamlining hours tracking across programs. A robust platform will even automate the rewards process by attaching badges to their volunteer profiles when they’ve reached certain milestones.

What’s more, a weekly highlight of specific achievements of your volunteers boosts their self-esteem and is an effective way to appreciate them for their hard work.

2. Volunteer-Only Raffle Tickets

Another way to show appreciation to your volunteers is to host a "volunteer-only" raffle program. Don't make them buy the raffle tickets, instead offer tickets based on the number of volunteer hours they serve in a given time period.

This makes the volunteers excited about the idea of winning a prize for their devotion to your mission. Again, you don't need to break the bank to give a worthwhile reward to the winning volunteer.

You can think of a $10 gift card, or you can write fundraising letters to some business contacts requesting if they can donate a prize or give you a discount for this cause.

3. Goodie Bags for Volunteers

While small gifts go a long way to show appreciation for volunteers, you can take it a notch higher by turning many small gifts into one big "thank you." Consolidate your organization's promotional branded supplies (including flyers, stickers, t-shirts, totes, and notebooks) and create gift bags for all your volunteers.

This way, they will be representing your organization and further your cause. You can also give them exclusive items such as tech accessories, water bottles, tumblers, and backpacks with your company's logo or name.

In addition, reach out to corporate partners and sponsors to contribute more items to the gift bag. This will also act as an additional incentive for corporate partnerships in exchange for free marketing.

4. Volunteerism Books and Subscriptions

One of the greatest gifts you can give your volunteers is books. Giving books as volunteer appreciation gifts is a great way to strike the perfect balance; books won’t break the bank and will leave a long-lasting impact.

Try to look for books related to your cause (think photo books, nonfiction, poetry, quote books, stories that take place in your city, or inspirational novels).

Books are an extra special way to show volunteers you care while providing a subtle reminder of your organization. It's a win-win.

Moreover, you can also secure free access or pay access fees for your volunteers to the local library. Better still, you can pay for their subscription to a virtual library, educational blogs, or self-improvement newsletters.

5. Host Food Gatherings for Your Volunteers

There is a popular phrase that if you want someone to love you, all you have to do is offer them a good meal, and they will love you forever. This statement holds true for everyone, including your volunteers. Offering food to your volunteers is a noble way of showing appreciation for their hard work while boosting their energy levels.

Consider the following alternatives to treat your volunteers and choose an option(s) that fits your organization best.

Offer Breakfast for Your Teams

You can show appreciation for your volunteer's hard work by offering them breakfast to kick start the day. For events that take place early in the morning or require traveling for long periods, the sight of baked goods and caffeine is enough motivation for your teams.

It shows care and concern and propels your volunteers to work at their greatest potential. After all, most of us cannot do without a little kick of caffeine in the morning.

Baked Goodies for Your Teams

Visit the local bakeshop for some sweet treats. If you’re looking for a more economical solution, why not enlist staff to bake something special for the volunteers? Thoughtful, handmade volunteer gifts always feel extra special.

Dinner Delivery for Volunteers

This idea became popular during the pandemic. Nonprofit organizations delivered boxed dinners, lasagnas, tamales, and more to volunteers. Volunteers will love a welcome soup during a cold snap or a basket of summer treats. Give your volunteers a night off from making dinner, and you may just have won volunteers for life. If you don’t have the resources to pull together hot meals, consider giving your most loyal volunteers gift cards to their favorite local restaurants.

Host a Food Party

Everyone loves a good party, especially when food is involved. Consider hosting a party for your volunteers with fun music, complimentary food, and drinks, and bring your volunteers and staff together to mingle.

Be sure to incorporate fun games at the party (lawn games like bocce and cornhole are always a hit!). You can also go a step further by giving prizes to game winners—trivia about your organization will invite plenty of friendly competition!

Don’t forget to make sure to set aside time to thank each volunteer.

6. Group Outing

Consider organizing a group outing for your volunteers to appreciate their efforts. These outdoor events are a good way to enhance camaraderie while boosting volunteers' engagement with your organization.

Evaluate affordable outdoor activities near you that can make volunteers feel appreciated and, at the same time, foster and encourage connection within your corporation. Also, encourage the volunteers to tag their family members in these group outings.

Take a poll on what volunteers love doing most, then create a list of possible outings depending on the feedback.

Some of the best group outdoor activities include:

  • Attending minor baseball leagues
  • Movie outings (great for teen volunteers)
  • Concerts (featuring celebrities who support your cause/share your vision)
  • Team barbecue
  • Bowling
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Camping
  • Capture the flag
  • Food truck fare
  • Beach or garden party
  • Hiking


7. Transport Stipend

Giving transport stipends is an excellent gift, especially for volunteers who have to travel to get involved. You can pay their gas or bus fare to facilitate travel to and from where you need them.

Taking care of part or all of their travel expenses encourages them to continue participating, especially for the events that require traveling.

8. Training Opportunities

Find out which personal or professional skills your volunteers are looking to improve. Then, find a job they can fulfill at the corporation that offers them hands-on training on that skill.

For example, if a volunteer wants to learn more about fundraising, you can ask them to work with the fundraisers in the next peer-to-peer campaign. In addition, you can also set up online microlearning courses to help train volunteers in their areas of interest.

Organize educational forums and seminars or enroll your volunteers in short professional courses to help them gain new skills and perfect existing ones. Where your budget allows, you can also consider extending scholarships (full or partial) as a way to appreciate your volunteers.

9. Create Volunteer Value and Impact Reports

Sometimes volunteers may feel their work is unimportant because they can't see the results or the bigger picture. For instance, if a volunteer is helping with answering phone calls at a food bank, they may not understand how impactful their work is to the families served by the organization.

Communicating volunteer impact is an essential appreciation tactic. Volunteers want to know that their participation is making a difference. An excellent way to appreciate and show volunteers they are important is creating reports showing your organization’s progress (such as money raised, families helped, lives changed, etc.)

You can then send these reports to volunteers in the form of:

  • Personalized emails
  • Newsletter
  • Appreciation postcards or thank-you letters
  • Handwritten notes or cards from community members
  • Picture books
  • Videos from clients
  • Annual report


10. Write Recommendation Letters

Volunteer recommendation letters are extremely important, especially for volunteers seeking gainful employment. These letters need not be long and tedious. Briefly write about your volunteer's achievements, strengths, and any anecdotes that highlight their ability to potential employers.

These letters are a meaningful way of appreciating your volunteers while setting them up for success. Your volunteers may be desiring to enter well-paying jobs, and a recommendation letter from your nonprofit is all they need to get there.

If your volunteers have a job, you can contact their employers and mention them in the best light. Any employer loves getting feedback about their team members, and personally commending your volunteers (to their employers) is invaluable.

11. Holiday Treats

There are many special days that you, your employees, and volunteers can celebrate together. These include major holidays (such as Christmas, Eid, New Year, Lunar New Year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day) as well as unique holidays (like International Dog Day, Earth Day, or National Volunteer Week)

Consider creating exciting events that volunteers (and their families) can attend during different holidays throughout the year. Such holidays are an excellent avenue for appreciating your volunteers and collecting donations, especially if you invite donors to the celebrations.

12. Other Low-Cost Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

There are as many volunteer appreciation gifts and ideas as we can possibly count. But it all narrows down to the message you want to send to your volunteers and how you do it. As we wrap it up, our blog would be incomplete if we do not mention the following low-cost volunteer appreciation gifts/ideas.

  • Candy bars with personalized labels
  • Homemade trophies
  • Helping-hand tree made by children
  • Celebrate volunteers' birthdays
  • Branded water bottles or coffee mugs
  • Flowers, flower seeds, or a plant (include a sweet message like “Thanks for helping us grow”)
  • Compile a community cookbook with favorite recipes from volunteers, staff, and clients
  • A “welcome to the community” gift bag for new families

Volunteer appreciation gifts are just one way to recognize your volunteers’ ongoing support. In addition to gift-giving, volunteer appreciation should remain a consistent component of your volunteer management strategy.

Author: Eli Samuels