Five Key Tips for Showing Volunteers Appreciation


Anissa Starnes, IOM, YGM Chief Impact Officer

Nonprofits, at their core, are made up of volunteers who give their time, energy, and resources to help others. These volunteers are the lifeblood of our organizations, and they deserve your gratitude and appreciation. 

But how can you show your volunteers how much you appreciate their hard work and dedication? These are my top five tips and tricks for nonprofit staff and leaders to show appreciation to their volunteers.

1. Make It Personal

One of the easiest and most effective ways to show appreciation for volunteers is to say thank you personally. Take time to write a handwritten note or <gulp> make a personal phone call to them to voice your appreciation to your volunteers. Include specifics about their work and contributions and mention how their service has impacted the organization. 

Pro-tip: Don’t just do this after an event, do it throughout the year. A random, thoughtful “thank you” is always appropriate and appreciated. 

2. Shout It Out

The impact of volunteers on your organization is immense, but it’s just as important to share their impact with others. Share your volunteers’ stories on your website and social platforms. Highlight their work, share photos and videos, and present them with opportunities to personally share their experience. It will motivate them and other people who are looking for volunteer options. 

3. Help Them Grow

Many nonprofit volunteers are looking to build their skills, either in their professional or personal development. By offering them opportunities for career and personal skill enhancement, you can show them that their time and dedication to the organization is valuable to you. If your chamber is offering leadership training, webinars, community events, or other relevant workshops, consider giving your volunteers a free registration to attend to help them enhance their skill sets. 

4. They Like Incentives

Most volunteers won’t admit to this, but they like to be rewarded. Offering incentives to volunteers is a way to compensate for their work and make them feel invested in the organization. You might recognize service awards for years volunteered, recognition certificates, or other creative rewards, like tickets to upcoming local events, gift certificates to a local restaurant, or premium items like chamber branded shirts or nice swag. Whatever the incentive is, volunteer appreciation is a cost-effective way to recognize your volunteers. 

Pro-tip: Don’t give them another coozie or a golf umbrella, the swag should be something they would be proud to wear. 

5. Create a Culture of Gratitude

Gratitude begins at the top. If leaders are not genuinely grateful for their volunteers, their actions will manifest themselves in negative ways. People notice a lack of appreciation. It’s important to make sure that any recognition you provide is consistent and appropriate for each volunteer. Consider asking your volunteers for feedback and suggestions about how the volunteer experience could be improved or how they would like to be appreciated. They will appreciate being asked. 

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. They give their time, energy, and resources to make the organization and community better. Leaders and staff must take steps to show their sincere appreciation and gratitude to these volunteers. Whether it’s through personalized thanks, sharing impact, skill-building, incentivizing contributions or creating a culture of gratitude, there are plenty of ways to express sincere appreciation for your volunteers. 

Sometimes a sincere handshake, a look straight in the eye, and a genuine “Thank you for what you do for us. We could not do it without you” means more than anything else. 

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