Volunteers are Priceless

National Volunteer Recognition Week is April 18-24th and now more than ever, we want to encourage thanking and showing appreciation to the volunteers in your organization.  Northfield Shares is your partner in promoting, recruiting and retaining volunteers. We are offering a few ideas for showing your unpaid staff that they are important to your success.

A budget that is tight is no reason to think you can’t show volunteers that you value them.  Some people think awards and tchotchkes are the key to recognition but there are many reasons that people volunteer and tapping into those feelings and motivations can mean much more than trinkets.

Informal Recognition:

  • Decorate the sign-in area where volunteers start their shift.  Pictures of volunteers in action, a banner signed by the staff, an oversized thank you letter printed poster size from the Executive Director, balloons, crepe paper. Get creative and pool the staff that supervise volunteers for ideas.  Gold covered chocolates, Hershey Kisses, a note to each one signed by the folks they are serving are just the beginning.
  •  PowerPoint videos running on screens around the office are an easy tool to recognize and promote volunteerism.  Ask staff members to photograph action shots of the volunteers and then email them as you collaborate before the event. 
  • Company Swag is another way to let volunteers know they’re on the team.  Lanyards for required name badges, shirts etc. These things say you consider volunteers as important for their contributions as your paid staff.
  • Ask staff to add framed quotes to their work area that inspire daily efforts.
  • Invite volunteers to attend staff development or bring in a speaker from an agency that offers a speaker’s bureau. 
  • Thank Volunteers on Social Media, a shout out on Facebook or your Web Page is an easy way to profile and promote awareness of volunteer utilization. Newsletters online or in print are another way to say thanks.

And now a word about paid staff and volunteer interactions: sometimes staff need training on volunteer utilization and recognition.  Offer to speak at a staff meeting enlisting their support year-round by helping them understand that your organization increases retention by utilizing recognition.  Sometimes a sincere thank you from staff means more than a party during volunteer month.  Using group emails or texts, staff can keep volunteers abreast of changes, news and make them feel part of the big picture.  Having a coffee break with department staff is a treat when socialization is a motivator. 

Virtual volunteers deserve applause too.  Ask them to join in a Zoom party.  Have a special guest, local celebrity that supports your mission say thank you.  A drawing, a staff skit, a monologue about happenings, the budget doesn’t need to be tapped, just your creativity.

Thanking volunteers is a responsibility of all staff, not just managers of volunteer departments.  Model the steps you would like to see staff members utilize.  Send an email with suggestions and help the entire organization see the support and value that volunteers add with their time and talents.  Make recognition an everyday practice and reap the rewards of volunteers that stay and promote your site as a great place to serve!