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updated 2024

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. Recognition can make the difference between feeling appreciated and feeling anonymous. Acknowledgment of their contribution is often all a volunteer wants from you during their experience.

Take a moment to thank volunteers, individually  when they arrive to serve, thank them collectively during the event, and thank them as they head home. Then, share the impact of their work with them.  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 cost. Make a deal with your printer. People will wear their t-shirts over and over again making it a great advertising tool, too.

Other options include practical gifts like mini hand sanitizer bottles, reusable straws, neck gaiters and bandanas.

Coffee and donuts when they arrive

Volunteers often drag themselves out of bed on the weekend to help you. Showing 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 a cheap and easy way to thank your volunteers by supporting them. Donated food items can be a way  for local businesses and restaurants to support your work, and help them market their goods and services.

Snacks and drinks during the event

Volunteering can be hard work. Make sure you keep them hydrated and fueled. Provide water and have some snacks on hand. The best cleanup snacks are those you can eat without touching your food. Try bananas, granola bars, and snack packs. Avoid anything you need to wash, like apples, or food served in bulk like chips.

Food is the key to a happy volunteer!

Showcase your volunteers in your public communications

Share photos (with permission, of course) of volunteers in your social media, media advisories, and newsletters. Be sure to include the impact of the work they did.

Give Them Access

Invite volunteers to meet with your team. A “Coffee with the Executive Director” or an online call to update volunteers on your organization’s work will help move volunteers from being part of an occasional cleanup to becoming an invested donor, committee participant, or board member. Seek their input, and when possible, act on it. 

Periodically survey your volunteers, too. They often have good connections and suggestions of other ways they could help your organization.

Annual Recognition Event 

Have a group of dedicated volunteers you see repeatedly? 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. Volunteers are a critical part of your team. Include them in your team celebrations.

Gift them a registration for the KTB Conference 

Take it a step further and gift your volunteer a pass to the annual Keep Texas Beautiful Conference. Volunteers can get inspired by networking with other volunteers across Texas and hear ideas from various affiliates.

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!”

Have fun coming up with your ideas and THANK YOU for reading this blog!

Check out KTB’s other blogposts on volunteer management, including 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 and published in 2018 by Karen Maldonado.

Updated 2024.