Your volunteers support your organization through the most uncertain of times. Now it’s time to recognize all their hard work. How do nonprofits thank their volunteers? Through strategic, thoughtful acts of volunteer appreciation! In fact, volunteer appreciation is a crucial component of any volunteer management strategy.
As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, organizations are looking for ways to thank their supporters and keep everyone healthy. While our volunteer appreciation parties may have to wait, there are plenty of unique ways to thank your volunteers.
In this article, we’ll explore some safe yet sincere volunteer appreciation ideas for nonprofits to use during COVID-19.
- Volunteer Appreciation Basics
- Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
- Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
- Volunteer Appreciation Through the Mail
1. Volunteer Appreciation: The Basics
Volunteer appreciation matters. Here’s what nonprofits need to know about thanking your volunteers:
Why is volunteer appreciation an important practice for nonprofits?
Nonprofits rely on unpaid volunteers to deliver essential services to our communities. Even during COVID-19, nonprofits and their volunteers are finding ways to have an impact. That’s why recognizing your volunteers is more important than ever.
And there are lots of reasons to show volunteer appreciation. Volunteers who feel appreciation report higher rates of satisfaction with their work. Subsequently, nonprofits who regularly thank their volunteers enjoy greater volunteer retention.
While most volunteers are driven by the desire to better their communities, they can feel good knowing their work isn’t going unnoticed.
Volunteer Appreciation and COVID-19: What Changes?
This year looks a little different for many community organizations. In response to a variety of challenges, some are operating on tighter budgets, allowing less wiggle room to splash out on a big volunteer appreciation event. Other volunteer programs have paused their operations completely.
Plus, most large gatherings are discouraged or postponed throughout the country. Your much-anticipated volunteer appreciation dinner may have to wait. But nonprofits shouldn’t cancel volunteer appreciation all together!
It’s time to get creative. We’ve put together some safe, fun volunteer appreciation ideas for a year when we could use a little extra cheer.
2. Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
Even if your organization has tightened its collective belt or closed its doors to in-person volunteering, you can still find unique ways to thank your volunteers and supporters.
Expressions of appreciation don’t have to be expensive. This year, we’re taking advantage of technology with some virtual volunteer appreciation ideas. And we haven’t forgotten about the joys of “old-fashioned” snail mail.
Keep reading for new ways to recognize volunteers.
Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
Technology has become increasingly accessible and essential to our everyday lives. People can work remotely, volunteer virtually, and connect with others online. So why not take advantage of the internet to thank your volunteers? These virtual volunteer appreciation ideas are both safe and cost-effective. That’s a win-win!
Host a Virtual Event
You may be used to gathering in person for the annual volunteer appreciation event. This year, try moving your event online. Use a video communication platform like Zoom to host a volunteer appreciation evening. Invite guest speakers to share their experiences and thanks. Give out awards to volunteers who went above and beyond, and cap the evening with a virtual toast.
Record a Video
Record a special video to thank all your volunteers and supporters. Invite members of staff and service recipients to express their heartfelt thanks. Sprinkle in a few images and some uplifting music, and your volunteers are sure to smile.
We love videos because they’re easy to distribute and fun to make. You can create effective videos using smartphones and basic editing tools (iMovie for Mac users and Movie Maker for Windows are great free options). Upload to Youtube or Vimeo, then email the link to all your volunteers, post on your website, and share on social media.
Need inspiration? Check out these examples of nonprofit volunteer appreciation videos:
Share Volunteer Impact
One of the best ways to recognize your volunteers is to track and acknowledge their impact. You’ll reassure your volunteers that their contributions are making a real difference.
And when it comes to sharing your impact virtually, you’ll need to employ your usual communication strategy. Distribute your impact results via your email newsletter, post on your website, and share on social media. For a personal touch, highlight and award the superstar volunteers who had the most impact in your community.
Pro Tip: Use a free online design tool (we recommend Canva) to add visual interest to your report.
Volunteer Appreciation Through the Mail
Receiving mail is exciting, especially when we’re feeling disconnected from our communities. This year, go back to basics by taking advantage of snail mail to show your appreciation.
Here are some ideas for delivering a little joy to your volunteers.
Send a Handwritten Card
There’s nothing quite like a handwritten card. It’s a personal touch that also invites moments of reflection. Want to make your cards extra special this year? Invite service recipients and community members to make handmade cards for their favorite volunteers. Provide them with a card making kit for an experience that’s fun and heartwarming for everyone.
Create a Photo Calendar
Thoughtful gifts are a great way to show your appreciation. What’s a more appropriate gift than a unique calendar as we approach the new year? Gather photos meaningful to your organization, like images of your volunteers hard at work or pictures of community landmarks donated by local photographers.
Design your calendar online, print, and send it to your most dedicated volunteers. The calendar will serve as a unique reminder of all the great work they do throughout the year!
Put Together a Care Package
Your volunteers dedicate their spare time to helping others. Invite volunteers to take a moment for themselves. Thank your volunteers with an at-home care package. Pair popular consumables like coffee and tea with small, thoughtful items like a printed mug. A small box of goodies is a simple way to deliver your thanks to your volunteers’ doorsteps.
Volunteers continue to drive our communities forward. That’s why volunteer appreciation remains an integral part of managing a successful volunteer program. While volunteerism certainly looks different this year, nonprofits should dedicate some time to thank their volunteers.
Addison Waters is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University.