As you’ve likely seen, volunteers can have a tremendous impact on the work you’re able to do.
There are “boots-on-the-ground” volunteers who show up in person to help out, vendors who donate supplies or make in-kind donations, those who help you fundraise, and more. No matter how they support your mission, one thing all of these volunteers have in common is that they deserve your gratitude.
Thanking donors is a common best practice, but thanking volunteers is just as important for retention, appreciation, and morale.
Here are 9 impactful ways for your nonprofit to thank your volunteers.
1. Feature them in your communications.
Featuring your volunteers in your communications is a pretty basic idea, but don’t underestimate how meaningful it can be. With that in mind, think about how you can feature a volunteer in both internal and external communications.
One thing you could do is name a Volunteer of the Month and put their name and photo somewhere prominent in your office. You could also share that volunteer’s story (with their permission) with your supporters on your social media platforms, on your website, and in your newsletter. You can even share their stories in your annual report or direct mail communications.
2. Send them a Certificate of Appreciation.
Another simple way to show your appreciation is to design and send them a Certificate of Appreciation. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while, but this gesture can still be really meaningful.
Sending each volunteer a certificate with their name on it gives them something they can display and be proud of. It also shows personalization and thoughtfulness from the organization, which might inspire others to volunteer or even make a donation.
3. Have an appreciation party.
Consider how you can create a fun event exclusively for your volunteers. Such events can help volunteers feel valued, let them connect with each other, and further create rapport with your organization.
Could you have a pizza pajama party or an ice cream social? What about a roller skate party? Brainstorm how you can come up with a theme that is unique and ties into your mission.
Tip: If you can’t hold this event in person or you know not everyone will be comfortable attending an in-person event, find ways to create a unique and meaningful experience that you can provide for your volunteers in a virtual or hybrid format.
4. Treat volunteers to a meal.
One way to show your appreciation is to treat volunteers to a meal! This is a great way to get them to gather together, build relationships with other volunteers, and even get to know your staff if you host the meal in your office.
5. Surprise them with a gift.
Surprise and delight a volunteer with a bouquet of fresh flowers or balloons or something else you think would be a sincere gesture of thanks. Sending them a gift like this gives them a visual reminder that you appreciate them, which goes a long way in making them feel valued.
Tip: This gift doesn’t need to be expensive. If flowers or balloons are out of your budget, research cost-effective ideas that might work. You can even see what other nonprofits have sent to thank their volunteers in the past and take a cue from them.
6. Create swag just for them.
Can you create custom volunteer hats or shirts that they can wear while serving your organization? Shirts are always a great gift; they can bond the volunteers and also help others easily identify them if they need help with something.
Additionally, if a volunteer wears their shirt or their swag, they’re spreading awareness about your organization and hopefully introducing new supporters and donors to your cause!
7. Invite volunteers to a car wash.
If you have the bandwidth and your staff likes the idea of doing this for your volunteers, throw a car wash. Choose one day, pick a location, and invite your volunteers to get a free car wash. You can provide snacks and play music and turn it into a casual appreciation event. It’s a cheap and fun way to go the extra “mile.”
8. Send them a handwritten card.
Like donors, volunteers love to see how their impact is helping you carry out your mission. Can you have one of your organization’s beneficiaries write a card to give to your volunteers? If you serve kids or seniors, could you throw a card-making event and create cards that you can send to volunteers?
Tip: Don’t forget to get their permission before you share someone’s name, photo, or story!
9. Pick up the phone and call them.
If you have your volunteers’ phone numbers, consider throwing a thank-a-thon with your staff and have them call the volunteers to say thank you.
Wondering if this is worth your time? Studies show many people still appreciate a classic phone call, and in this digital age, making a phone call will help you stand out.
Check with your legal or financial advisors before you send a gift.
Finally, I recommend checking with your legal team or financial advisors about what you can and can’t send to volunteers.
For example, you shouldn’t give gift cards to volunteers! From a legal and tax standpoint, if you give a gift card or cash to a volunteer, they may then be considered an employee or independent contractor, which is not only incorrect but may also have negative implications for your organization.
I hope these ideas help you thank your volunteers and encourage them to continue supporting your organization in the future!
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