10 Free Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation

Volunteers are not paid monetarily but they are most definitely rewarded for their service. It is important to know the reason each volunteer has chosen to give precious time to your organization. Knowing their motivations and objectives for volunteering helps you recognize their efforts in ways that help them meet their needs while simultaneously helping your organization meet its own needs. This helps to keep your volunteers committed and coming back to serve. 

  1. Make sure they know how their efforts benefit the mission of your organization. One of the best ways to show volunteers how important they are is to show them how their volunteer time connects to the impact of your organization. This is especially important for someone who is volunteering because they feel passionately about your mission.
  2. Request their feedback and input. Many people like to share their ideas. It makes them feel important when you ask for and value their opinion. Volunteers might see things we do not. The opportunity to give input and feedback is especially important for highly skilled and/or experienced volunteers.
  3. Provide meaningful work. Use their talents and skills to make sure their time is well spent. Ask them what they would like to do at your organization. They often have an idea of how they want to contribute.
  4. Make sure volunteers feel welcome. Train staff to interact with volunteers in ways that help volunteers feel welcome, respected, and valued. They should feel like they are a part of the team.
  5. Help them increase skills. Offer training, skill development and learning opportunities. Incrementally Increase the responsibilities of a volunteer as they increase their skillset. This may be especially important for young volunteers.
  6. Offer letters of recommendation. Younger volunteers often volunteer to grow their network and make connections for future employment. Offering a letter of recommendation is a big motivator to the demographic just starting their career or reentering the workforce.
  7. Fun social events, field trips or exclusive activities. For individuals that volunteer to make connections with others or to network it is important to offer opportunities to socialize. An all company picnic or trip to see your work in action are just a few simple ideas to implement. 
  8. A letter of appreciation. A heartfelt thank you goes a long way. A hand written note by a staff member or someone your agency serves is a way to express your appreciation. Include a photo of the volunteer in action for extra impact or post the photo and the thanks on social media.
  9. Maintain a personal connection with your volunteers. Some people volunteer to be part of a community. Know what your volunteers are experiencing in their personal lives and ask about them and their families.
  10. Awards and Certificates. Some volunteers are highly motivated by recognition. Awards and certificates would be especially motivating to these individuals and appreciated by other volunteers as well. Internal recognition such as a photo of the volunteer of the month hanging in your offices or recognition at an all staff meeting or in your newsletter are wonderful ways to recognize volunteers that go above and beyond. The Lt. Governor’s Volunteer Recognition Certificate is an opportunity to recognize long term dedicated volunteers for their service. You can nominate Utah volunteers here: userve.utah.gov/recognize/. Those recognized will receive a mailed certificate signed by the Lieutenant Governor. Recipients of the recognition certificates are also considered for the Power of Service Award

Volunteers do for free what workers are paid to do in other industries. Warm appreciation and recognition are readily accessible forms of compensation that lead to increased volunteer motivation and retention.

For more information on volunteer management, attend our upcoming professional development Volunteer Management Training https://userve.utah.gov/train/ 

Authored by Wendy Carrigan, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, UServeUtah

Content is derived from:

The Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism (UServeUtah) Volunteer Management Training 

Notes from Aaron Miller’s Nonprofit Management course at Brigham Young University, taken by Wendy Carrigan

Ideas presented at Forever Young Foundation in partnership with Arbinger Institute nonprofit training