99 Ways to Appreciate Volunteers

This list of 99 ways to appreciate volunteers is slightly adapted from the Indiana 4-H program. Even though 4-H is not a religious program, its work is largely dependent on volunteer leaders. The insight and suggestions they offer below is extremely relevant to volunteer managers in ministry settings.

 

Volunteer recognition doesn’t have to cost anything. Volunteer recognition is not a straightforward checklist of things to do, awards to buy, and accolades to present. What volunteer recognition really is, is a state of mind. Recognition is realizing that everyone makes a contribution to the cause, and that everyone is a member of the same team. It’s accepting people for who they are, understanding what they can offer, and doing our best, as volunteer coordinators, to effectively match the volunteer’s unique talents, strengths and interests, with the role or responsibility for which they are best suited and can be most successful.

 

  1. Send cards for personal achievements (birthday, anniversary, new arrival, promotion, graduation, and so on).
  2. Have an "at-home tea party." (Send volunteers a tea bag in a card and ask them to enjoy a cup of tea in the quiet of their own home.)
  3. Write a news article highlighting their contribution or impact upon the program or individuals you serve.
  4. Send a thank-you note.
  5. Smile.
  6. Send a holiday greeting card.
  7. Spontaneously say "thank you" during a chance or planned meeting or gathering.
  8. Ask a volunteer for his or her input about a program or evaluation.
  9. Utilize a volunteer suggestion box. Carefully consider the suggestions!
  10. Ask a volunteer to serve in a leadership role.
  11. Present service stripes, candy sticks, or candy canes with the message: "You've earned your stripes!"
  12. Ask a volunteer to conduct an orientation or educational program.
  13. Have a soft-drink party.
  14. Shake hands.
  15. Plan a theme party (toga, costume, western, and so on).
  16. Give a pat on the back.
  17. Invite volunteers to staff meetings. Encourage them to contribute and participate.
  18. Send a volunteer to a conference.
  19. Ask the volunteer to present a report, lesson, workshop, or seminar on an aspect of that conference.
  20. Cultivate volunteers’ special interests. Whenever possible, encourage pursuit in their volunteer role.
  21. Utilize volunteers’ unique special talents.
  22. Be flexible.
  23. Share the success or impact of one volunteer with others at a meeting or gathering.
  24. Provide "perks" (free admission to paid events, free parking, free food, and so on).
  25. Take an interest in their personal lives.
  26. Have a "volunteer of the month" award.
  27. Host a banquet, luncheon, dessert, tea, or reception in the volunteers' honor.
  28. Invite a volunteer out to lunch.
  29. Reimburse travel expenses.
  30. Establish a volunteer honor roll.
  31. Provide volunteers with clerical or office support.
  32. Provide educational resources for the volunteers to utilize (videos, pamphlets, books, and curriculum).
  33. Motivate and challenge them.
  34. Ask effective volunteers to each recruit another volunteer who is "just like him or her."
  35. Debrief with volunteers following a conference, program, or activity which they participated in or assisted with.
  36. Always use their first name.
  37. Nominate a volunteer to teach a workshop at a conference or symposium.
  38. When the workshop is accepted, assist the volunteer in preparation.
  39. Label the office coffee pot in honor of an effective volunteer. ("Vicki pours herself out for

this organization!" or "Joe keeps things perking!")

  1. Greet each volunteer with enthusiasm and appreciation.
  2. Ask an effective volunteer to mentor a new recruit.
  3. Provide useful and effective orientation for each volunteer position.
  4. Send peppermint candies to your organization’s volunteers with the message: "You're worth a mint!"
  5. Help them develop leadership skills and self-confidence.
  6. Ask volunteers for their input and opinions.
  7. Recognize and share innovative suggestions or programs.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Recognize volunteers and program participants for community-service activities.
  10. Take time to explain.
  11. Build consensus. Build support.
  12. Recognize tenure.
  13. Practice the "Platinum Rule." ("Do unto others as they prefer being done unto.")
  14. Recognize the number of hours contributed to the agency, organization, or program.
  15. Ask a volunteer to speak on behalf of the program to an outside agency.
  16. Ask a volunteer to speak at a volunteer meeting.
  17. Ask a volunteer to write a news article or news release.
  18. Foster personal growth.
  19. Provide scholarships to educational conferences or workshops.
  20. Enable a volunteer to move on to expanded or higher-level responsibilities.
  21. Share the volunteer’s personal success story.
  22. Provide volunteers with their own work area.
  23. Be respectful.
  24. Schedule monthly birthday bashes.
  25. Have a program participant share a success story about the volunteer.
  26. Provide transportation to meetings, events, educational workshops, and volunteer activities.
  27. Write letters of reference to prospective employers.
  28. Surprise a volunteer with a birthday cake.
  29. Utilize a volunteer as a consultant.
  30. Send flowers.
  31. Nominate volunteers for awards.
  32. Take note of volunteers' children's accomplishments. Recognize them.
  33. Make home visits.
  34. Make sure that each volunteer is a "good fit" with his or her volunteer role.
  35. Let volunteers know they were missed.
  36. Make telephone calls.
  37. Encourage program participants to send a thank-you note.
  38. Plan an organizational outing (picnic, theater, ball game, family day, or pool party.)
  39. Praise in public, especially in front of family and friends.
  40. Encourage program participants to send birthday and anniversary cards.
  41. Send get-well cards.
  42. Have a birthday and anniversary column in your organizational newsletter.
  43. Send a note of congratulations for personal achievements.
  44. Send a note of congratulations for professional achievements and promotions.
  45. Send a thank-you note to the volunteer’s spouse to thank him or her for sharing the spouse’s time and talents with the organization.
  46. Encourage other volunteers to express appreciation.
  47. Ask volunteers to judge competitions.
  48. Provide childcare.
  49. Send handwritten notes.
  50. Secure complimentary gift certificates from businesses or the chamber of commerce.
  51. Print business cards for volunteers.
  52. Ask a volunteer to co-present with a salaried professional at a conference, workshop, or staff development.
  53. Stage a potluck dinner in a volunteer’s honor.
  54. Bounce new ideas off of a volunteer.
  55. Involve volunteers in problem-solving efforts.
  56. Plant a tree or flower bed in a volunteer’s name.
  57. Contribute to a charity in a volunteer’s name.
  58. Send spices, seasonings, or herbs with the note: "You are the spice of life!"
  59. Provide caps or shirts to promote unity among the organization.
  60. Provide favors at meetings or events.

 

Don’t forget—Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 7–13!

 

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