Thanking your volunteers is important for two primary reasons: for motivation and retention. Yearning for gratitude is an instinctual human tendency and when volunteers see their work being appreciated, they are likely to be more zestful while working.
Spending one’s time and energy without compensation is certainly something to value, which is why retaining and encouraging volunteers is of such sheer importance to a nonprofit.
After all, volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit, and it is only when their efforts are openly acknowledged are they spurred on to do better. In this article, let us take a look at some timely and powerful tips which nonprofits can use to express gratitude towards their volunteers.
1. Provide assistance when on-site
When volunteers are spending long hours working at a site such as one affected by a natural disaster, they are bound to get tired at some point. As a nonprofit, you should be prepared for such an eventuality: make sure that there are tables stocked with food and bottled water, catering towards vegetarians, vegans, and non-vegetarians. It helps re-energize volunteers and is a clear indication that they are cared for. Thanking volunteers doesn’t just have to be a big and showy effort; even little acts of kindness and caring for their well being is enough.
Also, whenever it’s possible, compensate travel expenses or organize group transport if the location is at a great distance from where your volunteers are based.
2. Use different channels
From sending thank-you emails and texts, to giving handwritten notes of appreciation or thanking them via a phone call, there are several channels that you can make use of. Whichever channel you use, make sure to personalize your message so that it creates a feeling of intimacy. Try including something positive about their style of working or the impact that they personally helped create to make it more authentic and sincere. Nothing is more displeasing or off-putting than a message which doesn’t seem authentic.
In addition to this, make a note of volunteers’ birthdays, anniversaries, etc and wish them. The fact that you remembered their special day will certainly stand out.
Of course, sending emails, texts, handwritten notes or phone calls take time and effort so schedule your time accordingly, or hire additional staff to help you.
3. Publicize your volunteers’ achievements
When your volunteers have worked exceptionally hard towards a cause, some self-publicity certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Document their efforts by taking live videos and photographs and put them out on social media and your website. Have a dedicated blog and a newsletter to talk about their efforts and achievements in greater detail.
Storytelling can be used to the greatest effect for this purpose. If a volunteer or a group of volunteers have made a long-lasting and admirable impact, don’t hesitate to commend them for their wins. Also, make it a point to give internal awards and certificates periodically to highlight individual accomplishments. This serves the purpose of openly lauding their efforts whilst fostering a healthy sense of competition and motivating them.
4. Host periodic events (and include families too!)
Make it a point to host events regularly such as dinner nights, outings, pool or barbeque parties, or a black-tie event. When volunteers are working, they spend time away from their families and friends, so events such as these are a nice way of showing your heartfelt appreciation to them and also help encourage a sense of inclusivity.
During these occasions, put up a stage or podium and show highlights, photographs, and video reels, of volunteers doing their work, and mention them by name so that their families know of their value add to the cause and your nonprofit. Interact with their families as well and compliment the support they provide to volunteers.
If possible, do something that is beneficial for volunteers and their families such as providing subsidized tickets to a local community event or a movie or sporting event.
This is a substantial gift and reinforces the belief and pride that you place on your volunteers, while also acknowledging the role their families play in their efforts.
5. Give gifts
There is no better way of showing you appreciate someone than with a gift. So, as an act of gratitude, give volunteers presents like gift cards, t-shirts or other goodies from time to time. It doesn’t have to be too lavish because after all, it’s the thought which counts.
Also, consider segmenting your volunteers when giving gifts. For instance:
● If the volunteer has joined recently, give them a welcome present.
● For volunteers who have worked exceptionally hard, include them in a ‘Volunteer
Hall of Fame’.
● For loyal and long-term volunteers, you can give a handwritten card or a poster
with the signatures and messages of the rest of the team.
Whatever you end up giving, ensure that it’s authentic and shows how much you value their efforts.
As the saying goes—In life it’s the simple things which matter the most. Volunteers are worth their weight in gold for your nonprofit, so definitely invest some time, energy, and possibly, money, to show your support and reinforce their faith in the cause. Hopefully, these tips will help you in achieving this.