Volunteers are the backbone of a nonprofit organization. They’re not employees, and they’re not getting a paycheck—they’re only here out of the goodness of their heart.
Understandably, it takes time to woo, train, and initiate a new volunteer. So once you’ve done the legwork recruiting him or her, it’s more than worth it to keep them! Appreciating volunteers regularly is the best way to retain them.
Acknowledge all the time and hard work volunteers donate to your organization. Show them what a difference they make. To help you show your true feelings, we’ve put together some great ideas for thanking and appreciating volunteers.
Nominating volunteers for awards is a great way to show volunteers you notice what they do—and it’s a unique opportunity to tell them what makes each of them special to you. Where does this volunteer’s work really stand out? What are their best traits? Besides giving out an MVP award, consider creative awards like, “Most Hardworking,” “Best Attitude,” or “Most Inspiring.”
Awards are also a great opportunity to link what volunteers do with achieving your organization’s mission. What has this volunteer done to make a project or initiative possible? Show them what a difference they’ve made in reaching your goals—e.g., at an animal rescue, you could accompany the award with photos of happy rescued pets that your volunteer helped care for.
Especially after a big event like a gala, a small volunteer event is an easy way to get all your volunteers together to celebrate—and to appreciate them for their part in making it happen.
Throw a pizza party. Have a small awards ceremony. Invite volunteers to be speakers, so they can share their experiences working in the organization with one another, and inspire others. Having a “volunteer ONLY” event makes volunteers feel special!
A small gift during the holiday season, or after a volunteer has donated a lot of time into a project or event, can go a long way in letting volunteers know that you care.
It doesn’t need to be anything big, and it doesn’t need to cost you a lot of money. Seek out donations from local businesses, such as gift cards.
Cards are simple, inexpensive, and can often be the most meaningful kind of gift for a volunteer if written with thought and care. A great note can be read over and over, and keep unpaid volunteers inspired through hard times.
Here are some ideas for writing great thank-you notes:
- Where does this volunteer’s strengths lie? Appreciate those strengths in your note.
- How has this volunteer gone above and beyond the call? Express your gratitude.
- Depending on the kind of organization you are, or the sort of job your volunteer is doing, here are some great examples of thank-you notes to help inspire you.
- We also recommend this fantastic list of quotes by famous people about the virtues of volunteering.