Great Ideas to Show Volunteer Appreciation
Our previous volunteer retention post touched on an important aspect of keeping volunteers happy and productive—give them recognition and appreciation more often.
If you’re like many volunteer managers, you are always searching for creative—and inexpensive—new ways to recognize your volunteers. Whether you’re tiring of the standard “thank-you” banquet, or you just need some quick and easy ways to demonstrate your appreciation, here are several ideas that might just work for you!
Go beyond doughnuts: Sure, picking up doughnuts or bagels on your way into the office is pretty easy—and it’s always welcomed by staff and volunteers, right? Well, considering how many of them could be on gluten-free, sugar-free or weight-loss diets, maybe not. As an alternative, try stopping by your grocery store’s salad bar, and create a nice platter of fresh fruit and vegetables. Most everyone loves strawberries in spring and melon in summer, and it’s a healthy, sweet treat that won’t break anyone’s dietary restrictions. And they’ll know you appreciate them, too!
Give a book: As an alternative to plaques, why not give a gift that will be used and enjoyed, rather than gathering dust? A book that mirrors your nonprofit organization’s mission, interest, or purpose will bring even more meaning. Here are a few suggestions:
- Historical organizations: America’s Historic Places
- Animal Welfare: The Art of Racing in the Rain
- Social Services: The Women of Hull House
- Volunteering in general: Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul
- Education: Three Cups of Tea
Keep it Relaxed: Instead of a formal affair at an expensive venue, throw a casual volunteer thank-you party at your house—or one of your board member’s homes. Fire up the Bar-b-Que, order a simple meal from a wonderful caterer, or prepare some homemade soups and breads. If you have a specialty dish you can prepare, even better—the personal touch and effort will not go unnoticed by your volunteers. Just give everyone the opportunity to relax and socialize in an informal setting.
Who needs sun? Bring a day of sunshine to the office in the middle of winter. Party stores usually stock beach-theme favors, so pick up a bunch of sand pails and fill them with goodies. Inexpensive sunglasses, bottles of bubbles, Frisbees, and water squirters, plus an ice cream sundae bar are sure to bring out the kid in all your volunteers.
And in addition to these great ideas, here’s another—and it’s the most effective, least expensive one: be sure to say “thank you” often and loudly to each and every volunteer.