How To: Appreciate Your Volunteers
It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and in honor of the occasion, we have volunteer appreciation ideas and tips to share showing your volunteers they matter — this week, and always.
While showing appreciation for volunteers is a nice thing to do, it also benefits the recipient and the organization. Intentionally building recognition into your organization’s culture motivates volunteers and can help you retain them—and even attract new ones.
How does volunteer appreciation benefit you, your volunteers, and your organization?
- Volunteer appreciation increases morale. Even a simple “thank you” or “good job” from a supervisor can go a long way in making a person feel confident and proud in their job, as can more significant rewards. That confidence and pride can help make an even better volunteer.
- Volunteer appreciation enables you to keep good help and attract more. Recognition encourages the best people supporting your organization to stay. And good news travels fast – as others in the community are looking for paid jobs or volunteer opportunities, they will naturally turn towards your organization as a place they want to work.
- Volunteer appreciation increases the productivity of volunteers for your organization. If it is understood that increased productivity gets rewarded then people will do their best to be productive.
Ok, but how do we actually show appreciation to volunteers?
Formal appreciation can recognize milestones. Length of service, completion of a difficult project, meeting a challenging goal, completing a class, promotions, and more can all be recognized at annual events. Gifts are not always possible for a small budget, however there are low cost and no cost ways to recognize volunteers:
- Praise, formal or informal. This could take place in-person (a verbal “great job!” or a thumbs up at the end of a presentation), or in an email or handwritten letter congratulating someone on their outstanding work.
- Honors, such as naming someone volunteer of the month or year, or nominating them for honors and awards outside of the organization.
- Public recognition. Could you create a feature article about the person and their work in the organization’s newsletter, or in the local press?
- Awards, merch, or prizes, such as plaques, pins, certificates, clothing with the organization’s name, mugs, etc.
- Banquets, potlucks, and picnics
- Staff outings/retreats – these can serve as an excellent opportunity for people to reflect together on the work they are doing, and reaffirm their commitment to the work and to each other
- Social events – from planned celebrations to casual drinks after work, social events can make volunteers more comfortable with each other. Co-workers are more comfortable working together on projects, suggesting ideas, and tend to stay longer in workplaces where they socialize. Remember, people work on projects, but they work with other people.
- Increased autonomy. Self-directed volunteers that are free from constant scrutiny shows confidence in their abilities.
- Training. This can be a very powerful incentive for people who hope to gain useful skills or certification.
- Networking opportunities. Give people the opportunity to connect with others. Connections can happen internally or externally. They can aim to help volunteers grow personally or professionally. Networking and social connecting can play a big role in appreciation activities.
While it’s always important to show your volunteers how much you value them, this week is an especially good occasion to do something special for the people that donate their time to supporting your organization. Thank you, volunteers!