Volunteer Recognition – “Thank you!”
Gracias! Merci! Danke! No matter how you say it, "thank you" is the easiest and most powerful statement you can say to your volunteers. A simple thank you can solidify the positive experience they had with you and not only keep them coming back, but they will bring their friends, too. Thank you can make the difference between feeling appreciated and feeling anonymous. Thank you is often all a volunteer wants from you during their experience.
Thank them when they arrive to serve, thank them during the event, thank them as they head home, thank them in a follow up email, social media post or card. You can even go further by thanking them with gifts and food. We all know the power of saying thank you, but here are some other ways you can thank volunteers.
- Event t-shirt - Everyone loves a free t-shirt and it's also a great way to thank sponsors by placing their logos on the back. Try these cost saving tips: skip printing a date/year on your t-shirts and use them in the future for other events; look for a t-shirt sponsor to cover the costs; make a deal with your printer. People will wear their t-shirts over and over again making it a great advertising tool, too.
- Coffee and donuts when they arrive - Volunteers often drag themselves out of bed on the weekend to help you. Waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to pick up trash for free is a lot to ask. Thank them with breakfast tacos, donuts or other baked goodies. Coffee is a must! Food is the cheapest and easiest way to thank your volunteers. Food items are also easy donations for local businesses and restaurants.
- Snacks and drinks during the event - Volunteering can be hard work. Make sure you keep them hydrated and fueled. Provide water at the least and have some snacks on hand. The best cleanup snacks are those you can eat without touching your food, i.e. bananas, granola bars, snack packs. Avoid anything you need to wash, like apples, or serve in bulk. Food is the key to a happy volunteer!
- Feed them after the event - After a long day of work everyone is up for a good meal. Hit up your local pizza place for a deal on lots of pies, go for the classic grilled hot dogs and hamburgers or contact a local favorite that may be able to cater a hot lunch for you. Again, food items are easy to have donated or discounted and go a long way to making your volunteers happy.
- Annual Recognition Event - Have a group of dedicated volunteers you see over and over again? Thank them with an annual event. You can make it as simple as dessert or appetizers and go as big as a gala or dinner party. This is a great time to recognize volunteers with awards and allow them to mingle with staff, board members and fellow volunteers.
There are so many ways to thank your volunteers. Here are more great resources to help you find ideas and unique ways to say, "Thank you!"
- KTB Volunteer Spotlight, KTB Awards – Our local opportunities to recognize your volunteers
- Opencurrents.com – Volunteers can use their hours to earn discounts from local businesses
- Recognizegood.org – Nominate your volunteers for awards and post their stories online
- President's Volunteer Service Award – For a few dollars each your volunteers can receive a letter from the president and a lapel pin
- Youth Service America Awards and Grants Programs – Recognize your youth volunteers
- Low Cost Ideas from Signup Genius
- Creative Ideas from The Balance
- 101 Ideas from Australia
Keep an eye out for more ideas in our resource area and on Pinterest. Have fun coming up with your own ideas and THANK YOU for reading this blog!
This blog is the last in our Volunteer blog series by our own Karen Maldonado. Check out her other blogs Volunteer Retention – Keep Them Coming Back for More, Volunteer Recruitment – One Person Can Make a Difference and Volunteer Recruitment – Attracting Young Professionals to Your Organization. Want to learn more? Visit our Volunteer Resources page for helpful tools!
Blog post written by Karen Maldonado.