Home » Volunteer Appreciation: A Guide to Thanking Your Volunteers
Volunteer appreciation: It’s a term we hear often in the nonprofit world, but do we invest enough time into recognizing our volunteers and thanking them for their hard work?
We’re sharing our research and expertise on building better relationships with your volunteers, so that you can evaluate your current volunteer engagement strategy and find more meaningful ways to thank your volunteers.
Over 40% of public charities rely heavily or entirely on volunteers to operate. Nonprofits contribute nearly a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy each year, and per the Urban Institute’s most recent data, Americans volunteer 8.8 billion hours annually. Further, volunteers help organizations like yours fill critical gaps in service for nearly every community in the U.S.
Without the unifying force that is our nation’s volunteers, we wouldn’t have some of the organizations communities rely on today.
So where does volunteer appreciation fit in?
Recognizing your volunteers for their time and efforts is key to better volunteer engagement and retention. Volunteers are more likely to become lifelong supporters of your cause when they feel appreciated. They look to your organization for a sense of community, kinship, and an opportunity to feel good while doing good.
Showing appreciation and recognition goes a long way toward supporting a welcoming environment where volunteers regularly enjoy taking part.
This is your volunteer appreciation 2021 guide. We’ve updated our volunteer appreciation ideas to match the sentiment of today’s supporters by considering what truly matters to volunteers.
However you choose to show your appreciation, this year’s tips are about adding personal touches to make your volunteers feel genuinely valued. Even if your program sees thousands of volunteers each year, a smile, a site visit, or a quick chat show that you are invested in your supporters.
Below, we outline 6 ways to recognize and appreciate your volunteers:
Gifts are a simple way to show your appreciation. When selected thoughtfully, volunteer gifts can be more personal than the generic “volunteer certificate of appreciation” we see often. While mugs, pens, and t-shirts are nice, your volunteers’ cupboards and drawers are probably overflowing with items like these by now.
Instead, we urge you to choose volunteer recognition gifts with some thought. Your volunteers are at different stages of life, and may appreciate different gifts. For example, your college-aged participants might live in those t-shirts you give them. But branded apparel is not necessarily the right gift for all your supporters. In other words, some may be less enthused about getting more “stuff.”
Alternatively, try these thoughtful yet inexpensive volunteer appreciation gift ideas:
We often show appreciation by giving gifts. While tangibles can be meaningful, there are also impalpable ways to show your appreciation that can mean even more to your loyal supporters.
Your volunteers help to improve the lives of those in your community, but what can your organization do to improve the lives of your volunteers? Whether you can help a young volunteer secure their dream school, or give your enthusiastic forward-thinker a voice in your organization, here are some ways to invest in your volunteers:
More Ways to Invest in Your Volunteers:
Volunteer recognition is an important component of volunteer appreciation. While volunteer appreciation is about showing your volunteers you care about them, volunteer recognition is about acknowledging and celebrating their achievements and impact with your organization.
Even the most selfless volunteers want to know that their efforts are making a real difference in the community. Here are some tried and true volunteer award ideas to recognize your volunteers in a meaningful way:
One of the best ways to make sure you have the information you need to recognize your volunteers is to use volunteer management software to track their activity. Many systems can help you match volunteers to opportunities, communicate your appreciation, and even gamify the volunteer experience through digital awards and badges.
A special night out gives your volunteers something to look forward to each year. While it can be tempting to host the typical volunteer banquet, formal volunteer dinners can seem a bit tired and impersonal. Instead, try switching it up with these updated volunteer appreciation event ideas:
Volunteer Appreciation Words to Inspire:
Find the volunteer appreciation quotes that speak to you and to your volunteers:
Want more volunteer quotes? See our list of the most of effective words to share >>
National Volunteer Week generally falls around the second week of April, and International Volunteer Day tends to align with the first Sunday in December.
Volunteer holidays can offer a marketing opportunity to engage supporters and boost participation, but volunteer week is also a wonderful chance to show your appreciation and thank your volunteers.
In fact, some organizations choose to plan their own annual Volunteer Appreciation Week or Volunteer Appreciation Day as a special way to recognize the achievements of their volunteers. So how should you celebrate your volunteers?
Here are a few Volunteer Appreciation Week ideas to get you thinking:
This is perhaps the simplest and most important way to show your appreciation. Take the time after each shift, opportunity, or event to say a personal thank you. If you can’t be there in person, spend some time composing a volunteer thank you note and send promptly via email.
This year, we’re retiring the volunteer appreciation certificate and saying hello to handwritten letters; once in a while, acknowledge the individual efforts of your volunteers by composing volunteer thank you cards or handwritten letter.
Spend the time to focus on the specific traits of the volunteer you’re thanking!
Do they always show up to their opportunity with a smile? Do they make exceptionally delicious cookies to share? Even small acts of kindness from your volunteers make your job better, so thank them for it!
However you choose to say it, your volunteer thank you should feel personal and specific. We hope these ideas will help you find more meaningful ways to recognize and thank your volunteers this year.
Author: Eli Samuels
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