Thank You, Volunteers!
The heart and soul of any non-profit. Volunteers are passionate audience members who dedicate their time and energy to helping your organization do its best work. Public institutions and nonprofits thrive when volunteer communities are strong. Not only do they provide virtually free labor, but they also have the power to market your goods and services to the local community and beyond. Your volunteers are often also your best brand advocates.
Having a robust volunteer workforce provides myriad benefits to tight-budgeted organizations. For example, museum guides, security, and ticket-takers are positions often held by volunteers. In addition, much behind-the-scenes work is performed by volunteers: from fundraising to event-staffing, volunteers represent the life’s blood of any nonprofit.
Volunteering is always a labor of love, and it is the responsibility of the recipient organization to show appreciation for its voluntary workers. Saying thank you and showing volunteer appreciation can come in many forms. The next time you need to say thank you volunteers, don’t be afraid to get creative! In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of showing your gratitude, as well as a few winning ways to give your volunteers some love and recognition.
The Power of a Thank You
Just like financial donors, labor volunteers are performing acts of generosity, and deserve to receive thanks for their donation of personal time and energy. Extending a formal statement of gratitude to volunteers is an important part of developing your organizational community. And volunteer appreciation represents a huge part of building that culture.
Thanking your volunteers functions to keep an open communication channel between them and your organization. It signals that you value the relationship built between the institution and its voluntary laborers, and encourage this collaboration to continue. It also motivates the volunteers to keep returning, because they know their work is being appreciated.
Reminds the volunteer of their good deeds.
Most of us volunteer or donate money to feel good about our contributions to the world. And a gesture of gratitude will help to remind your volunteers of that good feeling they generated while working with you. A thank you letter can be downright inspirational, and will encourage your volunteers to continue engaging with your organization.
No one is going to stick around for very long if they feel their work isn’t being appreciated (especially if they’re not getting paid!) Volunteers represent a vital part of the nonprofit ecosystem, and without them the world of the public institution would be a duller, less vibrant place. But praise for their contribution can keep a volunteer returning for years to come.
It’s the right thing to do.
Your life would be a lot harder without volunteer labor. There are an estimated 6 museum volunteers for every paid worker, making them the driving force of any public institution in the US. Nonprofit organizations owe almost everything to their volunteer base. The least you can do is say “thank you.”
A Note: Volunteer Thank Yous vs. Donor Thank Yous.
While donors and volunteers both provide similar and vital resources that allow nonprofit organizations to thrive, there exist a few subtle differences which may require unique approaches to expression of gratitude.
- Formality – An institution’s relationship to its volunteers is significantly different than to donors. Donors are supportive members of the community, whereas volunteers exist within the organization itself. While a professional and formal letter of recognition is most appropriate when thanking donors, a more creative and intimate approach can be taken in appreciating volunteers.
- A letter – Personalization is important no matter who you’re thanking. A donor should be named and their history acknowledged in any message of gratitude. But because volunteers work so closely with your institution, a letter should reflect that closeness with an advanced degree of personalization. Make sure your volunteers know exactly and specifically what you appreciate about them.
- The ask – When you ask for donation money, the communication typically comes from the institution as a whole, or a specific figure within the organization. The ask will be formal, polite, and deferent. Asking a volunteer to return must also be professional, but doesn’t necessarily need to be so formal. Additionally, it is best if the ask comes from someone with whom the volunteer is already familiar, such as a supervisor or coworker.
- The gesture of thanks – Donor letters and events should be treated as exclusive and formal affairs. Among tiers there should be equal access to the gesture. Volunteer appreciation gestures can be more casual, and may look like any other workplace celebration. You might thank your volunteers with an informal gathering, a birthday party, or a handwritten letter or gift.
The Best Way to Show Volunteer Appreciation
Here are seven fun and creative ways to show your sincere appreciation to your volunteers.
- Gifts – reward your volunteers with non-monetary incentives such as flowers, personalized clothing, or a reasonable spree at your gift shop.
- Pizza party – or a bagel party, or a cupcake party, or a smoothie party, etc., etc.
- A trip down memory lane – take lots of photos of your volunteers in action and surprise them with emails or a physical photo album containing those images.
- Social media spotlighting – give your volunteers their 15 minutes of fame by featuring them on your social media accounts, or by letting them takeover for a day.
- Send a postcard – give your volunteers fun and personal cards or notes on holidays and birthdays.
- Impact reports – write up a review of the difference that volunteer labor makes at your organization so your volunteers know just how impactful they really are.
- Appreciate them regularly – throw a quarterly party, send cards when you can, and say “thank you” when you pass them in the hallway. However you thank your volunteers, don’t let them forget how much you appreciate their work.