Top 8 Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation

Generosity and benevolence. We believe very strongly that those are nonprofit volunteers’ primary drivers. But secondary motivations are as divergent—and surprising—as volunteers themselves. And if your nonprofit relies too heavily on volunteers’ goodwill, they may get fed up and quit. Don’t let that happen.

Instead, tap into donors’ underlying motivations to promote their long-term commitment to your organization. To inspire you we compiled our eight favorite ways to show volunteers you appreciate them, all informed by volunteer motivation.

8. Just Between Friends

Many nonprofit volunteers joined your organization because a friend recommended it. Take note of relationships between volunteers and schedule friends to volunteer at the same time. They’ll be as thankful for the friend date as your nonprofit is for their work.

7. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A little acknowledgement goes a long way, so long that the desire for recognition compels some to volunteer. Such volunteers will be touched by a public avowal of your gratitude. Have them stand for applause at your next fundraiser, or post their picture with a quick bio at your headquarters.

6. Feed Them

Alright, we admit it. People don’t volunteer just because they want a free meal every once in a while. But pizza and donuts boost volunteer engagement.

5. Age-Old Wisdom

If you happen to keep your volunteers’ birthdays (or some other significant date) on record, make use of the milestone to show your appreciation. Surprise and delight volunteers with a birthday card, or give them a shout out on Facebook.

4. Goodies

Swag isn’t just for Sundance. Gifting volunteers for the gift of their time and expertise proves that their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. And when your swag promotes your nonprofit brand, prospective supporters could be persuaded to join you. (By the way: college students love t-shirts. Since they live in them.)

3. Props

Don’t forget that volunteering for your nonprofit looks great on a resume. If you didn’t realize that, you’re being too humble. Offer to be a reference, or write a recommendation for connections on LinkedIn.

2. Gift of Time

Many volunteers are motivated by their drive for influence. They may have started volunteering for your nonprofit because they have great ideas and want the opportunity to share them. Grant them that opportunity. Offer to take a volunteer out for coffee and a tête-à-tête.

1. You Better Believe It

Volunteers work for you because they believe in you and your cause. Show supporters you believe in them, too. Cheer on a volunteer who’s running a marathon. Nominate one for an award in your community. Be in the audience when your volunteer delivers that big speech they told you about.

Affirming and reaffirming your nonprofit volunteers is well worth the effort. Investing a bit of time and creative energy in expressing your appreciation will make for happier, more committed nonprofit volunteers.

What’s your nonprofit doing now to show volunteers your gratitude?

Image via WeHeartIt


Jill Havlat

April 27, 2012

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