Successful associations need volunteers, appreciate their help, and thank them for their contributions. Volunteer time and expertise are valuable, so ensure your volunteers feel valued as well. Whether you thank them privately, publicly, annually or monthly, volunteer appreciation can take many forms. Here are a few ideas for saying thank you – some cost money, some just time and creativity.
- Give Back: Volunteers give their time and energy, often citing that they give back to an organization that’s given them so much. Donate in their honor to an organization uniquely special to your volunteer. A small, thoughtful donation speaks to the relationship you have with your volunteers, listening to them about their lives and what’s important to them.
- Pick Up a Pen: Write a handwritten note of thanks. Written messages are rare these days and as such, noticed and appreciated. With many volunteers working remotely, an e-card or well-crafted email works well too.
- 1 Picture vs. 1,000 Words: Does your team meet on Zoom or Teams or some other platform that allows you to take a screen shot? Have everyone hold up a handmade sign or printed sheet that says ‘Thank you’ and create a message to send to volunteers.
- Newsworthy: Thank your volunteers for their contributions in your newsletter or e-communications to members. This is also a great way to post a ‘Thank You’ photo and have it seen by all members, perhaps increasing volunteerism to your organization.
- You Had Me at Hello: Give people a break from today’s online visual world by making a phone call to just say thank you. Brighten someone’s day with a call that asks for nothing and just says thanks.
- Make a List, Check it Twice (make that at least FOUR times): Simply create a list of volunteers and present it somehow. Online, this can be a presentation slide, a digital program listing/ad or even read aloud during a virtual event. For in-person events, a printed sign or banner works well – add photos if you have them. People look for their faces and names – and those of their friends – so this is an easy way to publicly acknowledge them. (Pro Tip: Don’t risk missing someone, so when in doubt, include their name!)
- By Special Invite Only: Host an exclusive appreciation event, inviting volunteers to thank them for their commitment to your organization. For a virtual volunteer event, get creative. It could be access to an online concert or interacting with a comedian. Try a cooking demonstration or watch a mixologist concoct a cocktail (which you can use to toast them!). While people are tired of being ‘on’ on screen, they could be receptive to a social event designed exclusively for them to relax and connect with each other.
- #ThanksSoMuch: Use your organization’s social media channels to highlight volunteers. Thank them and tag them in your posts. If you have photos of your volunteers in action, post those and tag them so they can share via their own social media. Create digital frames for them to use in their social media posts as well.
- Kudos! Kudoboard.com offers a unique and free way to create an online thank you ‘board’. Combine videos, photos, and messages for volunteers for free or a nominal cost.
- Surprise! Everyone loves a fun surprise, whether it’s a cup of coffee, cookies or a small gift to say thank you. Getting an unexpected treat or an e-gift card to treat yourself is a nice boost to the day.
As the saying goes, just do it. How you say thanks is not as important as just saying thanks and showing some volunteer appreciation. If you struggle to find the right words, borrow someone else’s eloquence. Find quotes by notable people and incorporate those into your thank you note/email/social media post. You can also find sentiments online to help get you started or check out an online guide to thanking volunteers. No more excuses…just do it and say thank you. Volunteer appreciation is important, so make it a priority.