In our first article on the benefits of volunteering published two weeks ago we established that volunteer work is worthwhile and fulfilling for an individual, giving one both an opportunity to serve their community and a sense of purpose. Part 2 of the series covered a few tips for successfully recruiting volunteers. However, how do we make sure that after our volunteers have been with us for a while, they know that we appreciate their efforts and commitments?
In the final part of the series we would like to shed light on the topic and share a few resources that might inspire you or your organisation to go an extra mile to make your volunteers feel valued, especially during the holiday season.
The article discusses 5 innovative ways for nonprofits to recognise and reward volunteers: their dedication, time, energy and skills. One simple way of showing your appreciation is providing their lunch or snack. Second, giving them a “Volunteer” T-shirt is an excellent way to make your volunteers feel important and a part of the team, which has the added benefit of them spreading the word about your cause or mission during the times they wear those T-shirts on other occasions. Another good practice for keeping volunteers on board is including them in meetings or asking for their feedback, which makes them feel involved. Fourth, make their experience fun and exciting by conducting challenges or organising regular social activities; these are great for team building. Finally, make it easy for them by keeping them well-informed: provide training for jobs and give them access to contact details of other volunteers so they can organise car-pooling or reimburse their expenses. For more information, check out Exult and their articles and other resources targeting nonprofits.
Volunteering NZ has a fantastic downloadable toolkit for volunteer-involving organisations that would like to become catalysts of community change. They ask a very important question: where would your organisation be without volunteers?
“For many nonprofits, the involvement of volunteers makes the difference between being able to achieve their mission and objectives, and not achieving them. Volunteers, therefore, are a precious resource.” Having a coordinator or manager who is able to provide support for volunteers and ensure their well-being is key to having a successful and productive team.
Finally, we’d like to draw your attention to this 15-minute session that was part of the infoodle Online Roadshow this year. In this video, one of the founders of infoodle Aukje Smith shares her own experience of working as a volunteer and gives a few practical tips for recognising your volunteers and their hard work.
Apart from demonstrating how infoodle can help you communicate and encourage your volunteers, Aukje emphasises that thanking your volunteers is essential to the healthy nurturing of your organisation. It can make an immense difference, growing loyalty, improving performance and making a positive difference to each of their lives too. And heading into Christmas is a perfect time to show your gratitude.
In conclusion, we’d like to add a few more things you can do to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them.
These are the quickest, and often cheapest options: send a simple email to all your volunteers, addressing them individually. This is a great starting point but you can take it further by including a short recorded video verbally thanking everyone. You can also then post this video on social media for all to see, or include photos of some of the work that they have done? Including these is a great reminder to them of the effects that their work has had.
Calendars. Creating a calendar for the coming year, filled with photos from the work that had been done over the last year both has the benefit of being a great surprise, but also like the above example, a great reminder that their work holds meaning. Unlike a digital version of the photos, they will get to see these for the entire year coming!
Goodie-Bags. You can go as big or small as you want: form a small box of chocolates all to a big hamper/basket of yummy assortments. The treats will be eaten fast, but the impression it leaves will remain.
Branded Gifts. There are many companies that can produce personalised branded gifts: pens, mugs, coasters, books, or clothing, which will remind them that they are part of your organisation.
Product/Membership. If your organisation produces a product, or if you are a membership based club, offer some free product or free membership for a time period to your volunteers.
If you have a spot where your community can see it, set up a physical Christmas Tree, a large Christmas Tree Wallprint, or even just a cardboard cutout on the wall. Then decorate it with the names of your volunteers, and some notes, photos or stories about how wonderful they are, and how they are making an input in other people’s lives. Allow your entire community to partake and add their own stories too!
Thinking of doing a Christmas Party? Why not double it as a Volunteer Awards Ceremony as well? Scale the ceremony to match your size - it may be simply a single award of “Volunteer of the Year”, or it could be a full blown ceremony with dozens of prizes and awards. It is great having an event dedicated to celebrate them, and acknowledge the stand out volunteers as well.
Finally, take the time to connect individually with each of your volunteers. People feel truly valued when someone takes time out of their day to personally speak to them, especially if the main point of the conversation is to thank them. The value of making a personal connection is worth more than all the gifts in the world.