With it being Volunteer Appreciation Week, it got me thinking. Thanking your volunteers shouldn’t be optional, it should be a requirement! 77 million adults volunteered in 2018 alone. The numbers found in the 2018 Volunteering in America report is enough to make even the most stoic person misty-eyed.
Fostering a relationship with your organization’s biggest supporters seems like a no-brainer. I know that as a professional fundraiser sometimes the work piles up and you feel overwhelmed. Working at a nonprofit isn’t for the faint of heart. You encounter the hardships of the world on a daily basis. But you’re also working hard to make the world a better place for everyone. Even if that means getting your hands dirty.
Think about how much your volunteers embody that same passion. And they do it for FREE, offering only their time and skillset to help carry out your mission. It’s worth taking the time to reach out and show your volunteers how much you appreciate them.
Send a thank-you video
Videos capture so much emotion. While emails and letters are great options too, visual messages garner more attention. These don’t have to be long or high-quality. The point is the message to volunteers thanking them for their dedication to your organization. I’ve found that it’s difficult to find a lot of examples of organizations leveraging this option. Which is crazy to me, because it’s such a powerful tool!
These thank-you videos can be posted to social as a public form of recognition to all volunteers or placed within an email. By sending these within an email, it gives you the chance to be more personal. Did your organization just host an event? Let the volunteers who worked it know that you appreciate all that they did and how you couldn’t have done it without them. But be timely! You wouldn’t want to receive a delayed thanks, and neither do your volunteers.
Host a volunteer appreciation event
Gather volunteers together to honor and recognize their efforts by hosting an event just for them! This is personally one of my favorite ideas. Organizing this event is fun and leaves everyone feeling great once it’s over.
I attended VISTE’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon last week. VISTE, or Volunteers in Service to the Elderly, is a local customer that’s almost entirely volunteer based. The love they have for every single volunteer was so obvious with each staff member’s speech. What makes these events so special is the opportunity it provides for other volunteers to connect with one another. I found myself more inspired by our lovely community once I left.
While they’ve had quite some time to perfect their event, you can still look to them as an example. Each year they host an award ceremony for Volunteer of the Year, Rookie Volunteer, and more! What’s important to notice about this, is that they honor long time volunteers AND new ones too! Recognizing and sharing individuals’ efforts and impact they’ve made on your organization is so rewarding! Every part of the lunch was solely about the volunteers. From the slideshow of pictures projected on 3 screens, to every speech given. Hosting a simple, but genuine event can turn into an annual celebration that everyone can look forward to year after year.
Welcome new volunteers by getting to know them
Volunteer retention can be difficult! Mostly because once a volunteer signs up, there can be a lack of communication. Nurture a relationship with a volunteer from day one. I can’t express to you how frustrating it is to sign up for an event and hear nothing until the day of. From a volunteer perspective, I feel as if my time and contribution to you doesn’t matter.
If your volunteer is new, follow up immediately and host an orientation event. At an orientation event, your organization welcomes, thanks and guides your new supporters. It seems simple, but it really does make newcomers feel appreciated. They want to help you, but before they can, you must help them! To do their best, you should place them in a role suitable for them.
Every person has a set of skills they’re great at. If you place a volunteer in a cooking role when they hate cooking, they won’t be willing to come back. Show that you want to get to know them by sending a questionnaire! It’s so easy, and guarantees you have the best person possible where you need them. Volunteers will also feel valued knowing you care enough to ensure they have the best possible experience with your organization.
Ask for feedback (and actually implement it)
Feedback goes hand-in-hand with getting to know volunteers. Just like before an event, after the event you shouldn’t go silent. Not only should you reach out and thank your volunteers, you should ask for their feedback. Why? Because it shows their voice matters. They’re the ones who represented your organization and helped you.
If there was something that could be improved for next time, sending a post-event survey can help. Did part of the event maybe fall flat? Either by being short-staffed, not having enough signs, or needing better communication? You want volunteers to have the best experience with you every time. But their feedback should actually be taken into consideration. Not just heard. Your volunteers want the best for you, so taking their requests seriously will show them just how much they’re appreciated.
Volunteers represent your organization because it’s work they believe in. And changing the world takes teamwork! By strengthening relationships with your volunteers, you retain a strong support system to carry out your mission. Keep them coming back after each event by simply showing gratitude – it’s a benefit to volunteers AND your organization.
We want to take a moment to thank volunteers everywhere! Your hard work and dedication to helping nonprofits make a difference in the world doesn’t go unnoticed.