On Thursday, February 18, 2021, volunteer managers gathered together for a roundtable discussion on volunteer appreciation. As we approach volunteer appreciation week, here are the top tips on creating a meaningful thank you experience for your volunteers.

Trinket/giveaway Ideas

It’s very easy to rely on trinkets or small gifts as tokens of appreciation. Get creative and look offering for experiences by partnering with local organizations. A ticket swap allows volunteers to create memories while opening the door to future partnerships.

Creating experiences is not always be feasible, especially in the time of COVID-19, so look for items to give away that have meaning. At the Reid Park Zoo, volunteers receive lapel pins in the shape of different animals to recognize their hours of service. Other items to consider are things that can be used while volunteering –branded hats, jackets, sun sleeves, etc.

Event Ideas

When hosting an in-person event, keep safety in mind. Select venues that allow for social distancing, or host multiple days so your organization can accommodate your volunteers safely. When offering food, create individual food boxes so volunteers can take their meals to go or dine during the event. This allows volunteers to participate while holding firm to their own safety needs and comfort level.

Whether your event is in person or virtual, strive to provide a keynote speaker that is important in your field. Keynote speakers can come from within the organization, such as the president or CEO, or from outside the organization. What’s important is that the speaker can connect with the volunteers and inspire them to continue serving their community. Volunteer service positively impacts thousands of lives and their service truly changes the world for the better; you need a speaker who can convey this message.

Non-tangible ways to say “Thank You!”

Gift giving and hosting events are classics for volunteer appreciation but don’t forget the simple things. Sending a personalized email, card, or making a phone call is a great way to reach all volunteers, even if they are not experienced with technology.

Celebrate volunteers year round

Volunteer appreciation occurs in April but don’t wait for this week to celebrate your volunteers. Create a newsletter with a volunteer highlights section to showcase volunteers for their exceptional service. If you have a large volunteer force, consider promoting a volunteer type (i.e. Docent) then naming a few volunteers as examples of exemplary service. This way you can highlight more people in s short time span.

Bonus tips

Volunteers are typically managed by a few people, however, the impacts of volunteer service reaches throughout the entire organization. When planning for volunteer appreciation week, invite all staff to get involved. Film a quick thank you from various staff members, have multiple staff sign thank you cards, and encourage staff to attend the volunteer appreciation event so they can show their support.

Lastly, it’s important to ask volunteers how they want to be appreciated. Send out a google form questionnaire with options volunteers can select. This will show you which ideas are meaningful and ensures that your volunteer appreciation plans will be significant to as many people as possible.

For more ideas and resources, click on the links below.

Compiled By: Sierra Horsey