National Volunteer Week may be in April, but that does not mean you can’t celebrate, recognize and show appreciation for your volunteers all throughout the year. We know volunteer organizations are always looking for new, fun ways to show volunteers how truly grateful they are for the time and energy volunteers put into the work they do. We scoured the web and asked some of your peers – what are they doing to show appreciation. Here are some unique suggestions.
Take it Public
As you likely know from your place of work, from your personal or home life, sometimes a simple thank you goes a very long way. And when you go so far as to make that thank you public, it can mean that much more.
We are seeing organizations take the time to thank individual or groups of volunteers in many ways – on their social media sites (Facebook seems to be the most popular), in newsletters or email blasts that are sent out to distribution lists comprised of sometimes thousands of fellow volunteers and organization staff members, or even by taking an ad out in the local newspaper.
A thank you does not have to be quite so public. They can remain internal to your organization or location too. One fun idea is to feature professional development opportunities for volunteers on a bulletin board – someplace hard to miss. You can situate this board right next to “Thank You Wall,” where volunteers and staff can place personal notes of gratitude to another individual or a group.
Related to that last idea, how cool is it to keep “Compliment Forms” in a central area of your location. Whenever a volunteer goes out of his or her way for someone, they can grab a form, jot down a compliment or two, and tack it up on the wall for all to see.
Finally, to celebrate those volunteers who give endlessly – and perhaps have been with your organization for many months or years, create milestone pins. Give them away when volunteers have donated a certain number of hours or have helped achieve a specific goal. They can wear the pins proudly at events and let everyone know how dedicated they are to your cause. Alternatively, you can include these milestones on keyrings that feature your organization’s logo. A great way to recruit new volunteers!
While I know many organizations try to balance appreciation with budget, if you can afford them, events are always a terrific way to show volunteers that they are meaningful to you.
Host a volunteer appreciation party, whether it be a breakfast or a luncheon. Or a really creative idea is to host a movie night at a local theater. Allow your volunteers to bring along their friends and family for a private screening of a new film. (A tip: the theater might even be willing to donate the space. It never hurts to ask!)
If the budget does not allow for a full blown event, there are other things you can do. Perhaps you can give away tickets – to a movie, concert, museum, etc. – at a discount or for free to your volunteers. Or you can host a raffle during a volunteer event where volunteers are eligible for fun prizes. Remember, they do not have to be worth a lot of money, as long as they show some thought!
Say It with Food
I would venture to say that most people like a yummy treat every once in a while. Provide snacks during volunteer events. Perhaps popcorn and fountain drinks. Or bring in something special each month depending on what holidays might be taking place. For instance, nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” or “I appreciate you” more than chocolates.
Say It in Writing
We talked earlier about public thank yous. Personal notes – delivered right to the volunteer – can be just as impactful. Make sure to send cards celebrating volunteer milestones, giving thanks when a volunteer has done an exceptional job, and on volunteer birthdays.
Perhaps you can make it even more official by developing Certificates of Achievement for volunteers. Give them out when a volunteer has learned a new skill, exhibited truly admirable character traits…whatever you decide.
Or Say It Out Loud
Take the time to pick up the phone and tell your volunteer what they did that was so appreciated – and why it meant so much. Have you realized how infrequently people make phone calls these days?
I hope I provided you with a bit of renewed inspiration. How do you plan to appreciate your volunteers this year?
For more ideas, check out these posts related to Volunteer Appreciation: