The Ultimate Guide to Volunteer Appreciation


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Whether you’re new to the fundraising world or a seasoned veteran, one thing is clear—volunteers are key to a nonprofit’s success. In the world of charitable organizations, money is often tight, and organizations frequently operate with the bare minimum of employees. Without the help of volunteers’ donated time, many nonprofits simply couldn’t function. In fact, the value of volunteer hours is at an all-time high, according to a recent report by Independent Sector. Their report released in April 2023 states that one volunteer hour is worth $31.80. Think about how many volunteer hours go into making your nonprofit work, and now imagine having to pay out those salaries! It puts into perspective how essential volunteers are and underlines the importance of volunteer appreciation.  

The importance of volunteers

Volunteers are special people. They give their time freely, often with no expectation of recognition or attention. They want to do good work in their communities, and often the work itself is reward enough. However, even the most selfless volunteer appreciates being recognized and thanked! Volunteer appreciation isn’t just a nice thing to do. It also helps retain volunteers and ensures that the volunteers you already have are engaged and hard working. Passionate volunteers translate to successful fundraising events!  

A volunteer appreciation program is simple to create and maintain. In this article, we’ll show you examples of how to demonstrate your appreciation and best practices to maintain a consistent volunteer appreciation program.  

Volunteers cleaning a forest

Say “Thank you!” with gifts and events  

Showing your volunteers that you care about them doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. Here are some of our favorite ideas for simple, cost-effective ways to say “thank you” to the volunteers who make your work possible.  

Gift cards

A gift card to a local coffee shop, restaurant, or store is a great way to show volunteer appreciation. Even a $5 or $10 gift card can go a long way toward making your volunteers feel valued. And it never hurts to ask local businesses to donate gift cards to the cause!


A t-shirt with your organization’s logo is a great gift idea for your volunteer team. Many volunteers want to show their pride in the work they’re doing, so a specially designed volunteers-only t-shirt can be a wonderful gift idea. Not only will this help get the word out about your cause while showing volunteer appreciation, but you can also create a sense of community among your volunteers with matching shirts.  

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Volunteers’ night out 

Create a special event to show your volunteers how important they are! The ideas are endless: bowling nights, trivia contests, cocktail hours, weekend barbeques, and more! An event specially dedicated to your volunteers will make them feel appreciated for their work. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses to donate to the cause by sponsoring one of these events!  

Gift bags 

A goodie bag filled with various treats is a great way to say “thanks!” Partner with local restaurants, coffee shops, gift stores, and other businesses to create a gift bag with a variety of treats.  

Breakfast or lunch  

Many volunteer events take up a large part of the day. If you know your volunteers will be at an event throughout the day, make sure you provide them with a tasty, nutritious lunch. Or, if the event starts early in the morning, have hot coffee and breakfast waiting for them when they arrive!  

These are just a few of the many possibilities! Be creative and keep your volunteers in mind when thinking of ways to thank them. Our friends at Bloomerang have some great ideas in this article that will inspire you as well.  

Two volunteers volunteering at an animal shelter.

Build a culture of appreciation  

Gifts and tokens of gratitude are a good start when it comes to showing volunteer appreciation, but building a strong, sustainable culture of appreciation is crucial to the longevity of your volunteers. Here are some ways to create a lasting culture of volunteer appreciation at your organization.  

Formal recognition 

People love to be recognized for their work. Your nonprofit can award Volunteer of the Month titles to volunteers who go above and beyond. Another way to recognize your volunteers’ efforts is through a Volunteer Appreciation Week when you can focus on acknowledging outstanding volunteer efforts. If you have a social media presence, you can use those platforms to announce the winners of these awards and generally brag about how awesome your volunteers are!  

Social media shoutouts  

Another way to show your appreciation for your volunteers is by tagging specific volunteers on social media. Not only will this show individuals how important their work is, but it will also help spread the word about the important work your organization does through social media.  

Personalized thank-you notes 

Though it seems to be less of a thing these days, people still love getting snail mail! A personalized thank-you card can be a nice surprise for your hard-working volunteers. The winter holiday season is a good time for a handwritten card letting your volunteers know how important their efforts are in helping the cause.  

Phone calls  

In the same spirit as thank-you cards, a personal phone call to your volunteer staff can be a great way to show them how much you appreciate their work. This doesn’t have to be a weekly or even monthly occurrence—maybe save it for after a particularly challenging fundraising event.  

Help with professional development 

For many volunteers, working at a nonprofit can be a great way to build their resumes. In many cases, people who help at a nonprofit are also interested in a career in the same field. Be sure your volunteers know they can come to your organization for help with letters of recommendation or crafting a cover letter if they are searching for a job in the same field as your nonprofit. Additionally, you can offer professional development opportunities for interested volunteers through your organization.  

Clear channels of communication  

Do your volunteers know who to go to if they have a concern or suggestion? Donating time can be difficult when the donor feels like they have no say in how their time is used. Be sure your volunteers have an outlet to talk to your staff. They just might have some great ideas to help make things run better at your organization! 

Informal recognition  

Do your volunteers get a warm smile and a hello when they show up to help? Something as small as a heartfelt greeting can go a long way toward making someone feel appreciated. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a nonprofit, and we all have challenging days. Make sure your volunteers feel welcomed and wanted when they show up to help, no matter what!

Volunteer appreciation best practices 

Now that you have some ideas to get your creative juices flowing, it’s time to discuss some best practices to begin, maintain, and grow your volunteer appreciation program.  

  1. Set aside a budget just for volunteer appreciation efforts. A dedicated budget for things like appreciation dinners, gift cards, or t-shirts is crucial for the longevity of your volunteer appreciation effort. As you know, money ebbs and flows in the fundraising world. Don’t let a slow period undermine your efforts! Your budget doesn’t have to be huge, but it should be enough to make a consistent effort to say “thank you” to your volunteers.  
  1. Plan ahead. Make sure you give yourself and your staff enough time to plan the events you want to hold for your volunteers. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to throw something together. Your volunteers will know that you spent time and effort on the events you plan, and they will feel even more appreciated as a result. Just like setting aside money for a budget, be sure you budget the time needed for this as well.  
  1. Show your appreciation in a timely manner. Be sure you’re thanking your volunteers as soon as possible after they’ve donated their time. While you’re planning your thank-yous to your donors after your latest successful fundraiser, you should be crafting notes of appreciation to your volunteers at the same time!  

Final thoughts

Volunteers are the heart and soul of countless nonprofits. That’s why it’s so important to let them know they matter. Showing sincere appreciation for your volunteers will help with retention, and it will make your nonprofit stand out as a great place for people to volunteer! 

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