Organizing a community event or project is a lot of work, and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of dedicated volunteers. As a community organizer, it’s essential to show volunteer appreciation. It is important because it helps to motivate and engage volunteers and also helps to build a positive culture within the organization. That’s the purpose of volunteer recognition and volunteer appreciation.
When volunteers feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to continue volunteering and put in extra effort to help the organization achieve its goals. This, in turn, can help the organization achieve its mission and plans more successfully.
This article will explore ways to show appreciation to your volunteers and the strategies for building a strong and supportive volunteer culture.
The difference between volunteer appreciation and volunteer recognition
Volunteer appreciation and recognition are related but distinct concepts. Volunteer appreciation refers to the act of showing gratitude and appreciation for the efforts and contributions of volunteers. This could involve expressing thanks and appreciation in person, through written messages or cards, or through public recognition, such as awards or ceremonies.
Recognition, on the other hand, refers to formally recognizing the efforts and contributions of volunteers. This could involve awarding certificates or trophies, highlighting volunteers in the organization’s newsletter or website, or providing special perks or rewards.
The critical difference between volunteer appreciation and recognition is that volunteer appreciation is a more personal and informal expression of gratitude. In contrast, recognition is a more formal and public way of acknowledging the contributions of volunteers. Both are important for building a positive and supportive environment for volunteers and fostering a sense of community and support within the organization.
The structure behind great volunteer recognition:
A structured system for recognition is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it provides a clear and objective way to recognize the contributions of volunteers based on publicly available metrics such as the number of hours volunteered or the level of assistance. This ensures that recognition is fair and consistent and helps to build trust and transparency within the organization.
Volunteer recognition: tiers, perks, and rewards
Having levels or tiers of volunteer recognition based on the number of hours volunteered or the contribution level is a great way to incentivize volunteers to be better workers. For example, volunteers who reach a certain number of hours volunteered or make a particularly significant contribution to the organization could be recognized with rewards or perks, such as special events or access to exclusive resources. This acknowledges their efforts and incentivizes volunteers to continue working hard and contributing to the organization.
In addition, a structured recognition system can help to build a sense of community and support within the organization. By publicly recognizing the efforts of volunteers, the organization can show that it values their contributions and is willing to invest in their development and success. This can help foster a positive and supportive environment and encourage volunteers to continue working with the organization.
Overall, a structured and objective system for volunteer recognition is essential for building trust, transparency, and a sense of community within the organization. It provides a transparent and fair way to recognize the efforts of volunteers and can incentivize them to be better workers.
One example of a tiered recognition system for volunteers could be based on the number of hours volunteered. For example, the first tier could be for volunteers who have contributed up to 100 hours, the second tier could be for those who have contributed between 100 and 250 hours, and the third tier could be for those who have contributed over 250 hours.
The perks and benefits associated with each tier could vary depending on the specific needs and goals of the organization. However, some examples of perks and benefits that could be offered at each level might include the following:
- First tier (up to 100 hours volunteered): recognition on the organization’s website and social media channels, a personalized certificate of appreciation, and access to exclusive online resources and training materials
- Second tier (100-250 hours volunteered): a personalized thank-you gift, a feature article about the volunteer in the organization’s newsletter, and a special invitation to attend a VIP event
- Third tier (over 250 hours volunteered): a personalized plaque or trophy, recognition at an annual awards ceremony, and a special invitation to join a leadership development program
Overall, the specific perks and benefits offered at each tier should be designed to recognize and reward the efforts of volunteers in a meaningful and impactful way. The goal should be to provide volunteers with recognition, support, and opportunities for growth and development commensurate with their contributions to the organization.
At first, designing and implementing a structured recognition system for volunteers can seem intimidating and overwhelming, and you may want to consider putting some dedicated volunteer managers in place. There are many factors to consider, such as the specific metrics for recognition, the levels or tiers of recognition, and the perks and benefits associated with each level. However, luckily, there are tools and resources available that can help organizations design, implement, and manage their recognition systems seamlessly and efficiently without having to hire many volunteer managers.
One such tool is WithOthers, a community organizing platform that can help organizations design, implement, and manage their recognition systems in a simple, efficient, and effective way. WithOthers offers a range of features and tools that can help organizations track and manage volunteer contributions, recognize volunteers for their efforts, and reward them with perks and benefits that are meaningful and impactful.
WithOthers can help organizations create custom recognition levels and tiers based on the metrics and criteria most relevant to their organization. This ensures that recognition is fair and consistent and helps to build trust and transparency within the organization. WithOthers can also help organizations manage and distribute perks and benefits to volunteers, ensuring they receive the recognition and rewards they deserve.
Overall, WithOthers is a valuable resource for organizations looking to design, implement, and manage a structured recognition system for their volunteers. With its user-friendly platform and comprehensive range of features and tools, WithOthers can help organizations to create a recognition system that is simple, efficient, and effective and that provides volunteers with the recognition and support they deserve.
Volunteer experience mapping
Designing the volunteer experience on a timeline can be helpful to ensure that volunteers have a positive and rewarding experience with your organization. By mapping out the experience from start to finish, you can identify potential challenges or obstacles and develop strategies to address them.
Here are some steps to consider when designing the volunteer experience on a timeline:
First contact: When a potential volunteer comes into contact with your organization, it is essential to make a good impression. This could involve providing information about your organization and the opportunities available and encouraging the individual to learn more and get involved.
Interview: After a potential volunteer expresses interest, the next step is to conduct an interview to determine their skills, interests, and availability. This can help to ensure that the volunteer is well-matched with the opportunities available within your organization.
Onboarding: Once a volunteer has been selected, the next step is to onboard them and provides them with the necessary training and support. This could involve providing information about the organization and its policies, introducing them to other volunteers and staff, and providing necessary training or resources.
Training: During the training phase, volunteers should be provided with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to perform their tasks effectively. This could include workshops, online training, or mentoring from experienced volunteers or staff.
Retention: After the initial training and onboarding period, it is essential to continue to support and engage volunteers to ensure that they remain committed and involved with the organization. This could include providing ongoing training and development opportunities and recognizing and rewarding their contributions.
Recognition: Finally, it is essential to recognize and appreciate the efforts of volunteers. This could involve public recognition, such as awards or certificates, and more personal forms of appreciation, such as thank-you cards or gifts.
Overall, designing the volunteer experience on a timeline can help to ensure that volunteers have a positive and rewarding experience with your organization. By mapping out the experience from start to finish, you can identify potential challenges and develop strategies to address them, ultimately leading to a more effective and successful volunteer program.
Top Creative Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation
Congratulations on setting up your Volunteer Recognition System! Now it’s time to put it into action in your volunteer community. In another blog post, I wrote about how to start recruiting volunteers, so let’s skip ahead to giving the ones you have successfully recruited the recognition they deserve. To assist you in expressing gratitude to your volunteers, here are ten creative volunteer appreciation ideas for recognizing and valuing their hard work.
1. Publicly acknowledge volunteer contributions:
One way to recognize volunteers is to acknowledge their contributions publicly, especially for your most active volunteers. This could be done through announcements at meetings, events, social media posts, or newsletters. Public recognition is essential because it helps to motivate and engage volunteers and also helps to build a positive culture within the organization.
2. Provide certificates or awards:
Celebrating the commitment of volunteers is an integral part of recognizing their contributions to our community. Awards for different categories can be a great way to highlight various aspects of their work and honor those who help improve our world. For example, you can recognize some volunteers’ amazing dedication to their duties by giving out awards for the most hours served. You could also distinguish projects that had the most significant impact on our lives, honoring those whose selflessness went a long way toward making a difference. By showing your appreciation, we can help ensure more people continue volunteering their time – furthering hope and progress in our shared endeavors.
3. Offer training and development opportunities:
In addition to certificates and awards, organizations can invite volunteers to participate in training and development opportunities. This could include workshops, seminars, or other learning opportunities that help volunteers to learn new skills and grow professionally. Organizations can also offer leadership roles to volunteers, allowing them to take on more responsibility and make a more significant impact.
4. Provide small tokens of appreciation:
Small tokens of volunteer appreciation, such as thank you notes or cards, or gifts or gift cards, can also be a meaningful way to show recognition and appreciation. These gestures may seem simple, but they can significantly impact volunteers’ feelings of being valued and appreciated.
5. Host a volunteer appreciation event:
Hosting a Volunteer Appreciation Day is an excellent way to show appreciation for your volunteers’ hard work and dedication. This can include providing food, games, and prizes as a token of appreciation for the volunteers’ efforts. Encourage all volunteers to participate and make it unique by offering awards for outstanding volunteering over the past year. Making it fun and interactive will allow your volunteers to relax, which can, in turn, motivate them even more going forward. Furthermore, be sure to plan enough time for everyone to come together and socialize, allowing for bonds between newcomers and veterans to form, thus creating an inviting atmosphere within your organization.
WithOthers‘ sister company SoundsGood Presents can help you produce a large-scale event for the whole broad community, which you can also use as a volunteer appreciation event giving VIP passes to your most valuable community members.
6. Feature volunteers in organizational communications:
Another way to show volunteer appreciation is to feature them in organizational communications, such as newsletters or on the organization’s website. Highlighting the contributions and experiences of volunteers can help to inspire and motivate others to get involved. It can also help to build a sense of community and belonging within the organization.
7. Provide opportunities for personal growth:
Providing opportunities for personal gain is another way to recognize volunteers, and this could include workshops or seminars on personal development, health, wellness, or financial management. Providing access to resources or programs can be a great way to show appreciation and recognition as part of your broader volunteer program. But make sure to encourage volunteers to take up these opportunities – sometimes, they might need a little nudge!
8. Show appreciation through simple gestures:
Showing appreciation through simple gestures, such as thanking volunteers for their contributions, or offering encouragement and support, can be a powerful way to recognize their efforts. Showing volunteer appreciation doesn’t have to be complicated. These small gestures can help to build strong relationships and foster a positive and supportive culture within the organization.
9. Have a contest for the best volunteer story or experience:
Hosting a contest for the best volunteer story or experience is a great way to recognize and value people who dedicate part of their time to helping others and creating a better society. By launching a competition where volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds can share their stories, organizations can shed light on the perspectives of these people and discover inspiring tales. Additionally, it serves as an opportunity to thank volunteers for their hard work and commitment to the cause, encouraging them to keep up their efforts. Moreover, the reward for successful submissions may delight them even more, such as tickets for a local play or electronic store gift cards. Therefore, hosting a contest celebrating volunteer accomplishments is a meaningful way to build morale and show appreciation.
10. Make welcome packs to gift new volunteers:
To show appreciation for new volunteers, you can create a welcome pack with helpful information about the organization and its activities. This can include a brief history of the organization and how it came to be, details on your mission statement and code of conduct, and any resources they may need at their disposal. You can also include contact information for other volunteers and staff members and information about local events. You can also include fun items in the welcome pack, such as a pen or notebook, a small gift certificate to local businesses, keychains or buttons with your organization’s logo on them, and more. Creating these packs to welcome new volunteers is an excellent way of showing volunteer appreciation and can help them feel valued and supported, strengthening the bond between volunteers and your organization.
11. Seek feedback and really listen to your volunteers:
One of the best ways to recognize and value volunteers is by seeking their feedback and listening to what they have to say. This can help you learn more about your volunteers, their motivations and needs, and how to improve your work with them. You can ask for feedback through surveys or interviews or simply by taking the time to talk with your volunteers. By listening and acting on their feedback, you can show that you value their opinions and contributions, building trust and goodwill within your organization.
12. Write LinkedIn endorsements for top volunteers:
Writing LinkedIn endorsements for volunteers is a great way to ensure your volunteers feel recognized. These endorsements serve as a public acknowledgment of volunteers’ valuable contributions and can help boost their professional profiles on LinkedIn. Furthermore, writing endorsements can help to foster a sense of community and support within your organization, as it shows that you value the efforts of your volunteers and are willing to endorse their skills and abilities publicly. In addition, endorsements can help attract new volunteers to your organization, giving potential volunteers a sense of the type of work and opportunities available within your organization. Writing LinkedIn endorsements for volunteers is a simple and effective way to recognize and appreciate their hard work and dedication.
13. Engage with their posts on social media:
Another great way to recognize and value volunteers is by engaging with their posts on social media. This can help show your appreciation for their work and contributions and provide an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with them. You can like or comment on their posts, share their content, offer support and encouragement, or simply keep the conversation.
14. Profile them in your marketing channels:
This can help raise awareness about their important work and show potential volunteers what it’s like to be a part of your organization. You can profile volunteers through articles on your website or blog, testimonials on social media, interviews in your newsletter or magazine, and more. By highlighting the contributions of your volunteers in this way, you can show your appreciation for their work while also attracting potential new volunteers by showcasing what it’s like to be a part of your organization. This can be a handy way of marrying your volunteer program with the broader content strategy of your organization.
15. Take a group picture:
This can help build a sense of community within your organization while offering you the chance to show appreciation for their hard work and contributions. Whether at the end of an event or simply during one of your volunteer meetings, taking a group picture is a great way to show your volunteers that you value and appreciate their work. You can even make a collage with various pictures of your volunteers throughout the year and display it publicly, reminding them of all the amazing things they do for your organization.
16. Offer to be a personal reference for young volunteers:
If your volunteers are young, offering to be a personal reference or writing them a letter of recommendation can help show how valuable their contributions are. This can help them stand out and get the recognition they deserve in their professional and academic pursuits while deepening the bond between you and your volunteers.
17. Coffee with your executive director or CEO:
Whether you’re a nonprofit organization or a for-profit company, meeting with your executive director or CEO to chat about their work and contributions can be a great way to show appreciation for your volunteers. By sitting down and speaking with them one-on-one, you can express gratitude for all they do and build a stronger relationship with them. Additionally, this can help give volunteers a sense of what it’s like to be a part of your organization from the top down, allowing them to better understand their role and work within the larger context and ensuring that volunteers feel valued. Meeting with your ED or CEO is a great way to show your volunteers that you value and appreciate their hard work and dedication.
18. Hire the best ones as full-time employees!
Of course, one of the best ways to show your appreciation for volunteers is to offer them the opportunity to become full-time employees with your organization. This can help retain talented and dedicated volunteers and demonstrate that you value their contributions and are willing to promote from within. By hiring top volunteers as full-time staff members, you can cultivate a strong team that is dedicated, loyal, and invested in your organization’s success. And with the skills and experience your volunteers already have, they can help contribute significantly to your organization’s growth and impact. So if you genuinely want to show your appreciation for all that volunteers do, consider hiring them as full-time employees!
19. Don’t forget about Volunteer Appreciation Week!
National volunteer week is a time to recognize and celebrate volunteers’ hard work and dedication. It is a time to show gratitude for volunteers’ valuable contributions to organizations and communities and highlight the positive impact volunteering has on individuals and society.
During volunteer appreciation week, organizations can do many extraordinary things to recognize and appreciate their volunteers. Some ideas might include the following:
- Invite volunteers to a special event or reception to celebrate the contributions of volunteers. This could be a casual gathering, such as a BBQ, potluck, a trip to a local bowling alley, or a formal event, such as a dinner or awards ceremony.
- Sending personalized thank-you cards or messages to each volunteer, thanking them for their efforts and highlighting their specific contributions.
- Featuring volunteers in the organization’s newsletter or on its website and social media channels, showcasing their work and highlighting their achievements.
- Offering special perks or rewards to volunteers during the week, such as access to exclusive resources, training opportunities, or discounted tickets to events or activities.
There are many creative and meaningful ways to recognize and appreciate volunteers during volunteer appreciation week. By showing gratitude and highlighting the impact of their work, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to supporting and empowering volunteers and can help to foster a sense of community and support within their organizations.
The date of volunteer appreciation week varies from year to year. It is typically held during the third week of April in the United States, but it can also be celebrated at other times of the year. Some organizations may choose to celebrate volunteer appreciation week on a specific date that is meaningful to their organization, while others may celebrate it at a time that is convenient for their volunteers and staff.
If you are interested in participating in volunteer appreciation week, you can check with your local volunteer organization or community group to find out when it will be held in your area. You can also visit the National Volunteer Week website (https://www.pointsoflight.org/nvw/) for more information and resources to help you plan and celebrate volunteer appreciation week in your community.
Volunteer Appreciation: Conclusion
In conclusion, there are many creative ways to recognize and appreciate the contributions of volunteers. Hopefully, you’ve found some helpful volunteer appreciation ideas in this post. By identifying and valuing their efforts, organizations can motivate and engage volunteers and help to build a positive and supportive culture within the organization. This, in turn, can help the organization achieve its mission and goals more successfully.