Making sure your volunteers feel appreciated is one of the most important things you can do… if you want to keep them around! After all, they freely give their time and energy and expect little in return – certainly they don’t do it for the money! There are a number of ways that you can make your volunteers feel special. Here are some ideas below, and while most of them seem quite obvious, I’m surprised at how many non profits forget them!
We’re so glad to see you!
There’s nothing like a warm welcome to greet you on arrival and it’s a sure way to your volunteers heart. Make sure you include your vollies in conversations and let them know that what they are doing is important and valued. Be sure to ask them how their week has been or what they did on the weekend – and take an interest in them as individuals.
Coffee with heart
Include your volunteers in the coffee run
Buy them a coffee! $3.50 is money well spent and such an easy way to show your appreciation.
Ongoing training and opportunities
Where possible offer your volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills through training. Encourage them to develop their volunteer skills within the organisation or take on other roles that they might find interesting or challenging.
By doing so you will increase their feeling of being valued and reduce volunteer turnover. If your volunteer applies for a job elsewhere show your support by providing a written reference or agreeing to be a referee.
Make sure you tap into the opportunity to thank your volunteers by celebrating International Volunteer Day and National Volunteer Week (NVW). Volunteering Australia has some great information regarding NVW – with everything from celebration tips to Fast Facts about NVW – check out their website for more information here.
Hold your own volunteer thank you function – high tea, barbeque, picnic lunch or breakfast is a great opportunity for a get-together of staff and volunteers. Part of the function could be a formal presentation ceremony where volunteers can be presented with a certificate, badge or organisation t-shirt.
Some non profits hold activities such as bare-foot bowling or a movie night so that volunteers can get a sense of how they fit into the overall structure of the organisation and the good they are doing.
You could also consider nominating your volunteers for awards or even featuring a volunteer in your newsletter.
Don’t forget the little things…
- Birthday and Christmas cards.
- An anniversary card highlighting their year(s) of service. Note how they made a difference in your organisation over the past year.
- A little (or big) card saying well done with a chocolate waiting on their desk following a recent project they completed.
Just say it – “Thank you!”
Just two small words – thank you – but they mean so much. Let your volunteers know you appreciate their time and effort. They could have been spending their time playing tennis, having lunch with friends or having their nails done – instead they chose to help your organisation.
Whilst recognising and celebrating volunteers’ achievements can take some time and planning, it is well worth it as the rewards can be substantial. It will help maintain volunteer loyalty and increase retention levels, which in turn benefits your organisation.
Do you agree with these ways of acknowledging volunteers? Are there any other ways you recognise your unpaid team members? Let us know.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.