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Want a Stronger Organization? Start With Volunteer Appreciation



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Think about the last time you donated your time, money, or talents. Did you receive a thank you? Did it feel genuine? 

Were you moved to give again or encourage others to donate their own time, money, or talents?

There are a lot of unknowns in the world of nonprofit leadership, but volunteer appreciation isn’t one of them. 

In fact, in many ways, it’s uniquely straightforward: volunteers want to know their efforts are valued, their time is well-spent, and they’re truly making a difference for a cause they care about. 

We know that volunteers who feel appreciated will contribute more hours than those who don’t. Conversely, volunteers who don't feel appreciated are more likely to quit.

And since volunteer efforts really can make or break the organizations that rely on them, volunteer appreciation is something we definitely want to get right.

Volunteer appreciation is crucial for any nonprofit. In this image, three volunteers in green tshirts work to sort paperwork at a table outdoors.

Volunteer Appreciation 101: How to Show Gratitude

People are motivated by different things. So when thinking about volunteer appreciation for your nonprofit organization, you’ll want to consider a variety of ways to say thanks

For example, asking shy Amanda to stand in front of a group so you can talk about her achievements might be her worst nightmare. Darryl, on the other hand, may love to be recognized in front of family and friends, where he feels he can inspire others.

Having both casual and formal types of recognition will help all of your volunteers feel valued. 

Casual Appreciation Every Day

Everyday acts of appreciation are just that—things you can do every day.

You can think of these a little like random acts of kindness to acknowledge the volunteer’s time. They don’t need to follow a schedule or process.

A few ways you can show gratitude on a day to day basis include:

  • Give personal thank-you notes. Even a quick email can show you noticed and cared about a volunteer’s time and commitment.
  • Plan treats and casual celebrations. Look for key dates like National Volunteer Week and volunteer anniversaries. Grab some treats for the break room and hang up a banner to celebrate your volunteers during these special times. 
  • Introduce them to staff members. This helps staff and volunteers feel more connected and comfortable asking questions or sharing ideas. 

Plan Formal Volunteer Recognition Throughout the Year

Formal volunteer appreciation should be planned into your budget and calendar every year. These are the things your organization does on a regular basis.

Some common examples are:

  • Supply volunteer t-shirts. Give volunteers items they can use or wear at events and around the community. A simple shirt with a logo can help a volunteer feel like they belong and that you care enough to include them.
  • Design a volunteer of the month program. This can be shared on social media or in a newsletter to highlight individuals. Even shy volunteers may appreciate you sharing their contributions with your supporters.
  • Host an annual volunteer celebration. A bigger event like a picnic or gala lets volunteers share their wins with their families. This type of recognition shows volunteers how much their time is valued by the organization. 

There are also a few less common ways to build formal appreciation into your processes:

  • Keep them informed. Adding volunteers to emails will encourage them to share feedback and ideas as valued members of the team. You can even start a volunteer Facebook group where they can get to know other volunteers!
  • Invest in volunteer training. This helps the volunteer and the organization as they continue to improve their skills and learn new tasks to help with. Be sure to ask what volunteers are interested in to keep them excited!
  • Share a volunteer impact report. Show the hours volunteers completed and the impact they had on the organization for the year. Seeing their accomplishments is a great way to encourage volunteers to keep up the good work!  

The Power of Thank You

If you don’t know where to start or don’t have extra funds for events, don’t forget the power of a genuine “thank you”—in person and from the heart!

For more information and resources for nonprofit professionals, join NPO Centric’s membership program. >>