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The Most Important Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Volunteers

Many nonprofit organizations would not succeed without the work of the volunteers helping out behind the scenes. Volunteers are responsible for everything from washing dogs and cats to helping set up before a fundraising effort. As the owner of an organization or a manager, you can thank your volunteers and let them know you appreciate their hard work in some great ways.

Launch a T-Shirt Contest

Wild Apricot recommends hosting a t-shirt design contest that lets you recognize your volunteers in two different ways. At the start of the contest, you give all volunteers the chance to create a shirt based on a design or idea. You might ask them to create one that you will sell or hand out an upcoming event or one that you will sell to raise money for your organization. The winning design will go on all the shirts. You can hand out smaller gifts like candy bars or gift cards to anyone who submits a design.

Recognize Volunteers During Events

Volunteers often talk about their experiences with others and let their friends and family know about the work that they do. If a volunteer feels used, that person will talk about their poor experiences with others, which may lead to a drop off in the number of volunteers signing up to help your group. Take the time to recognize their work during special events. Even if it’s something as simple as providing them with free meals or bottled water, it will make them feel special.

Send Thank You Cards

Sending simple thank you cards is another way to let volunteers know you care. There are a number of websites that actually offer words and phrases that you can use when creating your own custom cards or when signing thank you cards. Try to send those cards out as soon as possible after the event. You might find it helpful to address or prepare the cards in advance. After the event ends, you can write a short note inside that you customize based on what each volunteer did or how he or she helped.

Host a Volunteer Appreciation Day

“Volunteer Appreciation Day takes place once a year and provides organizations with an opportunity to recognize the volunteers working for them,” said Kilbourne & Kilbourne. Some of these volunteers work 10 to 20 hours or more a week and do not get a single dime in return. When you host a volunteer appreciation day, you let them know exactly what they mean to you. You can plan something simple like a potluck dinner where workers and volunteers bring in dishes to share. Keep in mind that it is the thought that counts.

Talent Show

Susan J. Ellis recommends that you encourage volunteers to take part in planning special events for them instead of doing all the work and planning on their own. She suggests asking them to create individual or group presentations of some of the work they did in the last year. You can do something similar but turn it into a talent show. Outgoing volunteers can come up with their own skits, act out plays, juggle, sing songs and showcase their other talents in front of a crowd. You can even hand out prizes to the top acts.

Use Your Website

There are organizations in the world today that do nothing to recognize the hard work of volunteers, which can leave those volunteers wondering if they should leave and help elsewhere. If you have a website, you have the perfect place to recognize those individuals. You might create a volunteer of the month award and give it to one person each month. His or her name and picture will appear on the side under a special banner. You can also add your own volunteer section to your site that includes basic information about your long-term volunteers.

Volunteers often spend hours helping organizations to bring awareness to certain causes, help animals and people in need and support large communities. As a person of authority in that organization, you should look for ways to thank your volunteers. Hosting a volunteer appreciation day, using your website or sending simple thank you cards after an event lets them know their hard work is meaningful to you.

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