Volunteer Recognition IdeasCredit: Bigstockphoto

For many nonprofit organizations, volunteers are the backbone of the operation. Unfortunately, these same volunteers that keep the charity running at full speed don’t ever realize their importance. And this can make a volunteer quit and move on to something else.  Volunteers do need the simple “thank you” from staff at the end of every shift.  But they also need more concrete evidence that they are spending their time well. Showing your sincere appreciation will have volunteers coming back for years to volunteer their time. Here are some volunteer gifts of appreciation and recognition ideas that will improve your volunteers’ moral and retention rate.

Monthly Thank Yous

Give a monthly creative token of appreciation and volunteer thank you. Do not just offer a run of the mill thank you card or useless nick-knacks. Think of creative thank you gifts of appreciation that are unique or relatable to your organization. For example, if your nonprofit is a pet shelter, give photos of pets that have been successfully adopted with a note about that pet’s story. To make this easy to do, “hire” a crafty volunteer to make the monthly thank you gifts.

Volunteer Training and Promotion

Provide training for your volunteers to learn new jobs and that allow them to take on more responsibility. Then promote volunteers that have earned such recognition on a regular basis. One method is to have different levels of volunteers, such as trainee volunteer, volunteer, supervising volunteer, and volunteer trainer. Reward the hard workers with promotions to supervisor and volunteer trainer.

Volunteer Wall of Fame

Make in a well-traveled area a Volunteer Wall of Fame. Here you can post names of volunteers who have volunteered the most hours, the longest amount of time, or highlight a randomly picked volunteer. Also, share special stories of volunteers really making a difference within the organization.

Yearly Volunteer Bash

Hold a yearly volunteer appreciation event. Whether it is a simple barbeque or fancy dinner, allow volunteers to invite their families to share in their efforts. At the event, hold  an awards ceremony. But don’t just make it a “best of” awards ceremony; invoke some humor into the event. While you certainly should point out and reward the volunteers that shine, also use the ceremony to show how hard the work is and how each volunteer contributed with both a serious and yet humorous tone.

For example, for a pet shelter you may give out awards to those that survived handling the most feral cats and lived to tell the tale, handled the most pet adoptions, turned an unadoptable pet into a family pet, or for volunteers most willing to scrub cages and litter boxes without complaint.  Use memorable stories from throughout the year to come up with just as memorable awards and volunteer gifts of appreciation at the event. This will not only highlight volunteers, but also allow your organization to share its mission with other invited guests.

If your nonprofit is like many volunteer-based organizations, the idea of monthly and yearly volunteer gifts of appreciation and recognition may sound like a great idea, but seem impossible to accomplish. But appreciating volunteers is vital to having a strong volunteer base. To make it happen, make a volunteer position for just this job. The Volunteer Recognition Coordinator should make volunteer gifts of appreciation and recognition their only focus. Your organization will only benefit from such a program.