It’s become clear since we started blogging that volunteer appreciation is a hot topic. Indeed, it was one of our most popular blog topics of 2015! I find that encouraging because it shows that organizations and volunteer programs highly value the work volunteers are doing. They want to make sure they are conveying to those volunteers how special they truly are.
But organizations have a tough time finding ways to show appreciation – especially if they’re working with a limited budget. What I don’t think we consider enough is that volunteers are not in it for a physical, tangible, or monetary reward. They simply want to make a difference, to know that they are making a difference, and to feel that their contribution is meaningful. So here are seven completely free ways to show or tell them just how terrific you think they are!
1. Make sure volunteers are aware of their impact.
Be specific. Show them the numbers. Create a webpage or infographic around the impact of the specific project they are working on. Volunteers will feel awesome knowing they helped contribute to that project and they will be able to tell their friends about it…and maybe even unknowingly recruit new volunteers for your organization in the process!
2. Don’t just talk the talk – do the work.
If you simply “supervise” volunteer events and never get your hands dirty, you are – without so many words – telling your volunteers that you are above them and the work they are doing is beneath upper level staff of the organization. But if you get in the trenches, roll up your sleeves, and do the same work they are doing, they will know their role is important.
3. Understand your volunteers and what motivates them.
Take time to ask your volunteers what they think about the volunteer program, the way it’s managed, specific initiatives, your volunteer role, etc. And – more importantly – take their opinions back to your team and truly consider them. Is there something you can do differently to make them feel more valued in the organization? To make it easier for them to volunteer more often? To make them want to stick with your organization for the long haul?
4. Write a blog post or social media post dedicated entirely to a volunteer or group of volunteers.
Your volunteers are vital to your volunteer program’s success. You require their participation if you want to reach your mission. So when one volunteer – or a group of them – do something extraordinary, tell the world about it in a blog post or social media post. Make sure to take a photo (get their permission first, of course!) and include it with the post. They will love reposting to their own networks and, again, you’ll get the word out about your organization to a whole new audience of potential volunteers and supporters.
5. Or feature them on a special page of your website.
Creating a new page on your website is simple. Launch one called “Volunteer Corner” and feature one volunteer per month there. Include a photo and perhaps an interview with them, where they tell their own volunteer story. Make it about them for a moment.
6. Spread the word about your volunteers.
Write a letter up within your organization – maybe to the Executive Director or the Board – telling them about your amazing volunteer(s). Share volunteer impact with them – hard numbers and also a few fun anecdotes.
7. Don’t speak down to volunteers.
Talk to your volunteers like equals. They are not working for you – they are working with you to further a cause you both care deeply about. Make sure they know that.
Give these ideas a try. And also remember to revisit our past blogs on this topic, 7 Low-Cost Volunteer Appreciation Ideas and Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation and Recognition.