Most of us would understand the importance of saying “thanks” to a helping hand.
But when you’re a non-profit, and the bulk of your work is done for free by volunteers, the way you say “thanks” is just as important as the work they do.
So, how can you say thanks and ensure your volunteers feel truly valued? We share a guide to valuing and appreciating your volunteers below.
Why is it important to appreciate your volunteers?
While few volunteers would sign up just for the thank you, a pat on the back and recognition for work done always feels good.
It also plays a massive role in building your base of volunteers, in retaining them, and helping them to feel like they’re connected to the cause and making a difference. Many times we hear “I don’t need the red carpet rolled out for me, but it would be nice to be appreciated and acknowledged for all the work I do!”
Volunteers can be your biggest promoters, recruiters and even donors. Thanking your volunteers also gives them a sense of pride in their work, showing them the value and importance of everything that they do.
How do you make your volunteers feel valued?
When it comes to valuing and appreciating your volunteers, there are many things you can do. A good guiding principle is making sure that whatever it is you’re doing, it’s of value to them.
We’ve already spoken about finding out what motivates them (link to previous blog post here), and this is where you need to start to. Once you’ve got that done, you can set about implementing tactics to make them feel appreciated that align with their motivations, and this is the secret to making your volunteers feel truly valued. Give them what they ACTUALLY want….
It doesn’t have to be grand gestures either – a sum of small things done consistently can have the most impact when it comes recognising and valuing your volunteers. Below we share some ideas your organisation can implement broken down into smaller and easier daily practices, and strategies that require slightly more effort or budget:
Best practices for every day appreciation
- Use your volunteers names. It may take a bit of time implementing ways of remembering names, but name badges help – and there are lots of other tips and tricks online as well
- Get to know the names of those most valuable to them too – partners, pets, children.
- Individually say hello when you see them – at volunteer activities, and outside of this too.
- Acknowledge their specific efforts. This can be a thank you in person or on the phone or email, but try not to make it generic – show that you have been watching and care for them authentically.
- Encourage them to sit in on meetings and share organisational data. Remember, many volunteers just want to feel valued through their contributions
- Ask for and listen to feedback. Ask for feedback regularly, and conduct larger surveys 6 monthly, and annually
- Acknowledge them virtually – message them, post thanks on your organisations social accounts, tagging them in posts, and make sure to follow them back. Also, try recording a video of you saying how much you appreciate their efforts! (this can go along way).
Larger efforts for appreciation(requiring more time or budget).
- Spotlight a Volunteer. Profile a volunteer and highlight their achievements in your newsletter, appreciate your volunteers virtually by posting them on your website or social media channels. You could set up a nomination procedure to determine who is to be featured. Volunteer profiles can be monthly, quarterly, or even weekly depending on available resources and how many volunteers are on board.
- Provide plenty of water and some lunch on the day if it’s a big job. Provide sunscreen if it’s outside and somewhere shaded to sit.
- Assign lead volunteers. We share more about this here, but giving extra responsibility to those who go above and beyond makes a volunteer feel truly valued.
- Give out transport cards topped up with funds for travelling.
- Gift volunteers with branded goods – think mugs, shirts, hats, high vis vests, umbrellas. Useful things they’ll be proud to wear (you can take it a step further by personalising the gifts as well)
- Send birthday cards. Tip for Volaby users: you can keep track of their DOB in the database and filter accordingly from month to month, then export a list and send them out!
- Celebrate volunteering anniversaries or milestones. You might want to recognise hours volunteered or years volunteered. If you’re using an online platform (like Volaby) to log volunteer hours, it’s an easy way to track and reward those who are logging the most hours, as well as when they did their first volunteer activity.
- Write a thank you letter– you can download our volunteer appreciation template message (scroll down to download your FREE template) or get the organisations you’ve helped to write thank you letters
- Ask donors(or influential business people) to donate their time in the form of presentations, upskill sessions, entertaining events.
- Think of what your corporate partners might be able to offer – things like free tickets for sports matches, concerts, free coffees, and dining discounts will all be well-received.
- Plan social events. BBQs, trivia nights, and bare-foot bowls are fun and easy styles of events to organise and attend.
- Endorse your volunteers when it comes to job interviews – provide references, endorse them on LinkedIn or other social media channels that they can share.
- Offer one-on-one time with hard working volunteers, be it breakfast, mentoring,
- Train them. Upskill, offer training in various other fields, allow them to hone their skills via online worksheets.
- Hire them! Post your job openings internally so that volunteers have the first opportunity to apply for any jobs that come up within your organisation that may be relevant to your task force.
Feeling More Confident About How To Value & Appreciate Your Volunteers?
It’s hugely important to make your volunteers feel valued – and that’s because they are!
It’s easy and commonplace to get bogged down in admin, and feel like you need a big budget or lots of time to be able to recognise your volunteers as they should be.
We created the Volaby volunteer management system after our Australian-born charity Orange Sky found ourselves working around the clock just to keep the wheels turning – with most of that spent on administration. Our aim is to minimise the time spent managing volunteers, so you can spend more time implementing measures and activities that make your volunteers feel truly valued.
We are proud to be able to help volunteering organisations of all shapes and sizes across the globe work towards a common goal – to make it easier than ever to create an impact in our community using technology!
Our platform is made by nonprofits, for nonprofits. We’ve made it easy-to-use and intuitive for all users. We invite you to get in touch and trial Volaby for free today, with no obligations.
We look forward to speaking with you soon.
Thank You Note Template
- Make it personal – what is their name and specific skill they shared? What is their motivation for volunteering? Was there something unique they did on the day you could call out?
- Acknowledge the sacrifice – what have they sacrificed? Time? Effort? Money?
- Connect their action to the task goal, and make it specific – e.g. include how much money was raised / how many sandbags were carried / how many homes were cleaned etc
- Don’t wait – send it within a reasonable time frame (we’d suggest a fortnight at most)
- Sign off with your name. While it might seem best practice to be from ”the team” it’s actually better to sign off from whoever is writing the letter, or the task leader on the day.
[ website, email, phone number]
This is just a quick note to say thank you very much for taking time out of your day / night to help ____(specific charity).
We very much appreciate the incredible [the sacrifice – e.g. 10 hours, $100 you donated] to help [activity – build bird houses, bake brownies]. Your skills as a [insert specific skill here if relevant – e.g. carpenter, group organiser] was invaluable to everyone on the day.
Your work does not go unnoticed and really makes a difference in the lives of [recipients of activity]. Because of your help, we have been able to [activity achievement specifics either as an individual or a team – e.g. build 20 bird houses which helps us to house up to 100 birds].
Once again, thank you. We are so grateful to have you on your team.
Kind regards / sincerely,