Thanking your donors should be the first step on your to-do list after your fundraising campaign. But what about thanking your volunteers?
Your fundraising campaigns need both donors and volunteers to be successful, and your volunteers deserve recognition for all they do to promote your cause, create positive experiences for donors, further your nonprofit impact measurement efforts, and handle the minute responsibilities that go into planning a campaign.
Practicing volunteer appreciation is an easy way to maintain a healthy volunteer program, and recognizing volunteers can often be low-cost. Of course, the best volunteer recognition strategy depends on your nonprofit and your volunteers’ preferences. To help inspire your appreciation efforts, here are nine ways you can thank your volunteers:
One of the fastest and most memorable ways to thank your volunteers is through eCards. Rather than a plain thank-you email, eCards are a more visually interesting way to show appreciation online, creating a digital keepsake your volunteers will want to hold onto.
eCardWidget’s guide to volunteer retention answers a few basic questions about how you can use eCards in your volunteer appreciation strategy:
- What are eCards? eCards are virtual greeting cards sent through email, text messages, or social media. These cards can go above and beyond normal thank-you emails and physical cards by including a variety of visuals and even animations.
- What content should go in a volunteer appreciation eCard? Thank-you eCards are meant to include a short and sweet message expressing gratitude, accompanied by eye-catching visuals that represent your organization’s values and brand.
- How can my nonprofit send eCards to volunteers? Partner with a platform like eCardWidget to design your eCards and plan when you will send them out.
With eCards, you can easily show appreciation right after an event, on holidays and volunteers’ birthdays, or whenever else you want to express your gratitude for all the hard work your volunteers do.
2. Handwritten Cards
eCards are a great complement to handwritten cards. Physical thank-you letters give nonprofits an opportunity to go more into depth about their volunteer program, fundraisers, and the impact of each volunteer’s contributions.
For handwritten cards, create a template and populate it with details unique to each volunteer, so you can create cards quickly while still making them personal. Then, have your volunteer manager or someone else your volunteers worked with sign each card.
3. Branded Merchandise
Whether you have merchandise designed specifically for volunteers or have excess supply you’d be fine letting go of, gifting branded merchandise is an effective way to say thank you. Not only will volunteers receive a gift for their hard work, but they’ll also have a physical reminder of your nonprofit that will help keep your organization top of mind.
A few types of merchandise you might give volunteers include:
- Water bottles
- Fridge magnets
- Canvas bags
- Throw pillows
- Bumper stickers
When supporters sign up to volunteer, ask them for their t-shirt size so you can easily order merchandise for everyone. Try and get photos of your volunteers in their branded merchandise as well so you can spotlight their hard work and promote your nonprofit’s online store at the same time.
4. Public Shout-Outs
Celebrate your volunteers with a crowd by making your appreciation public. This can take several forms, such as spotlights on your blog, monthly email newsletter, social media posts, or recognizing them in a speech at a fundraising event.
Before planning these shout-outs, check to make sure your volunteers are comfortable with being recognized publicly. While some may not mind being recognized as a group in a speech, other volunteers may feel uncomfortable with their names being called out specifically online. Plus, it’s best to let volunteers know beforehand so you can collect quotes from them about what volunteering with your nonprofit means to them.
Take a page out of a for-profit company’s book with volunteer recognition awards. Businesses often have various employee recognition awards to keep morale, retention, and engagement high, and your nonprofit can achieve the same results with your own recognition awards.
Your awards should reflect your nonprofit’s values and goals related to volunteering. For example, you might offer awards for:
- Most funds raised in a peer-to-peer campaign
- Most tickets sold to an event
- Positively representing your nonprofit to event attendees
- Going the extra mile with behind-the-scenes work
- Volunteering regularly for an entire year
These awards typically take the form of a certificate or a plaque.
6. Wrap-up Party
After a major fundraising event, your volunteers are likely exhausted. Give them an opportunity to relax and have some fun with a wrap-up party. Order pizza or make sure you have extra catering left over from your event. Then, plan activities that let volunteers socialize with one another.
Giving volunteers opportunities to build connections not only makes the volunteering experience more rewarding but increases the odds that they’ll come back for your next fundraiser.
7. Virtual Appreciation Events
Volunteers who help out remotely deserve appreciation, too! For example, if you held a virtual auction, the volunteers who helped procure items, write catalog descriptions, and coordinate prize deliveries are unlikely to all be in one place at your event’s end.
To appreciate these volunteers in a way that’s convenient for everyone, try virtual appreciation activities, like:
- Trivia night
- Movie watch party
- Concert live stream
For virtual events, making space for socializing is even more important, as it’s easy for remote volunteers to feel isolated. Encourage volunteers to type in chat or divide them into small groups so they can talk to each other without worrying about speaking over someone else.
8. Volunteer Lunches
If your volunteers are able to meet up after a fundraiser, take them out for a group lunch. Order pizza for your nonprofit’s office or take everyone down to a local sandwich shop.
NXUnite’s guide to volunteer appreciation suggests a few engaging twists nonprofits can add to a volunteer lunch:
- Potluck. If your budget is a bit too tight to cover lunch, ask everyone to bring a dish and share. Food will still be provided and each of your volunteers will get the chance to show off their culinary skills.
- Movie night. Add more entertainment with a movie night. Let volunteers vote from a selection of movies to get them excited and make them feel like a part of the appreciation process.
- Group hike. For nonprofits with more active volunteers, you can turn your lunch into a picnic outdoors, complete with a hike or nature walk.
Before ordering food, check if any of your volunteers have dietary restrictions and plan to accommodate for them.
9. Gift Cards
If you’re not sure what to gift your volunteers, then just give them the resources they need to pick out a present themselves with a gift card.
Gift cards are another classic appreciation gift idea from the corporate world, but they work for nonprofits the same reason they work for businesses. Provide supporters with gift cards for multiple types of stores so they can self-select based on their own interests.
There is a wide range of ways to appreciate your volunteers, and the right approach depends on the unique individuals who donate their time to help your nonprofit raise funds. Talk with your volunteers to learn how they most want to be appreciated and adjust your recognition strategy to appeal to their preferences.