Recently, I attended a volunteer celebration for a local public school district. The volunteers for the year were treated to a reception before the Board of Directors meeting, which included a performance from the honor band. The staff and board thanked and recognized the volunteers for their service throughout the evening. Students were also celebrated, which was a great way to incorporate the impact of the volunteers’ service and demonstrate their value to the organization.
This celebration reminded me that in addition to traditional nonprofits, many other organizations benefit from volunteer service, including schools, athletic teams, and medical care facilities. No matter where a volunteer is choosing to spend their time, it is important we celebrate them.
According to the April 2023 Value of Volunteer Time report by the Independent Sector & the Do Good Institute, the value of one hour of volunteer time is $31.80, which is significant to many organizations. It is encouraging that people want to give back and help others and their communities; doing good feels good. And it’s also worth quite a bit!
Your volunteers look to your programs, activities, or events for a sense of community and to find joy. They grow personally from their experience. Acknowledging and honoring their time and talents creates a deeper connection between the volunteer and your organization. Recognizing volunteers fuels their desire to continue supporting the organization, which in turn helps you carry out your mission.
Make a Plan
Celebrating and stewarding your volunteers should be a series of intentional, year-round scheduled activities. Just as you would create a stewardship plan for donors, do the same for volunteers.
- Show them their impact: Let them see and hear the difference their contribution is making. Take them on a behind-the-scenes tour to a part of the organization they haven’t seen. Share highlights from the programs they support. Tell a story of someone impacted personally by their work.
- Recognize them publicly: Take advantage of events planned throughout the year to incorporate volunteer recognition. For example, if your organization hosts art shows, band concerts, or drama performances – have your volunteers stand to be applauded by the audience. Or include a recognition element to your annual meeting so volunteers can be acknowledged by your staff and board.
- Make it personal: A handwritten letter from program participants or a thank you call from staff can go a long way. Let volunteers know why their work matters. Sometimes a simple and heartfelt “thank you” is all it takes
As you think about establishing or revising your volunteer recognition plan, consider why people volunteer, how your volunteers want to be recognized, and how recognition can become part of your organization's culture. It will help ensure you are creating meaningful activities customized for your volunteers. Not only will it make them feel valued, but it will keep them coming back!
This Month's Focus