Skip to content

How to Show Appreciation to Your Gala Volunteers: A Guide

OneCause-Golden-How to Show Appreciation to Your Gala Volunteers A Guide_Feature

Your nonprofit just pulled off an unforgettable gala experience for your supporters. You thank all of your donors for coming, clean up your venue, then call it a night. What’s missing from this story? 

The answer is clear: recognizing your volunteers for all their hard work! Your volunteers are the backbone of your organization and help to bring your fundraising galas and so many other events to life. To show your gratitude, you need a strong volunteer recognition strategy that will help these supporters feel valued and motivate them to volunteer with your organization again in the future. 

Let’s take a look at how you can show appreciation to your volunteers before, during, and after your event. 

Showing Volunteer Appreciation Before Your Fundraising Gala

Volunteer recognition shouldn’t only take place after your fundraising event concludes. In fact, actively expressing gratitude throughout the event planning process can help keep motivation high and boost team morale. Use these tips to show your volunteers that their contributions are valued and appreciated: 

  • Spotlight your volunteers on social media: As part of your event marketing plan, share engaging content of your volunteers working hard behind the scenes. For example, you might take a photo of volunteers setting up your venue or film a testimonial video with loyal volunteers explaining your event’s purpose and why supporters should attend. Not only does sharing content like this help to promote your event to prospective attendees, but it also shows off your volunteer program and makes volunteers feel recognized for their efforts. 
  • Gift volunteers with merchandise: Consider giving your volunteers tees, badges, or other articles of clothing branded to your nonprofit that they can wear during your event. This will help to foster a sense of belonging and unite your volunteers as a team. Plus, it will ensure that event attendees can easily identify volunteers if they have any questions, such as how to check-in to your event or complete a mobile bid during the auction component of your gala. Allow your volunteers to keep this clothing after the event concludes as a token of your appreciation. 
  • Host a pre-event gathering: Host a brief meeting before your event kicks off to thank volunteers again for their hard work, reiterate and clarify volunteer roles and responsibilities, and provide any last-minute instructions or updates. Give a pep talk to your volunteers, sharing things such as inspirational quotes, and remind them of the significance of their roles in driving an impact on your community. You should also open the floor for any questions so you can make sure everyone is on the same page once your event begins. 

Keep in mind that volunteers shouldn’t be meeting one another for the first time right before your fundraising gala. Instead, your volunteers should check-in regularly with their respective teams throughout the planning process to foster accountability and ensure all pre-event projects and activities, like procuring the right auction items and getting your technology in place, are completed by the day of the event. 

Showing Volunteer Appreciation During Your Fundraising Gala

Once your event kicks off, you need a way to keep volunteers engaged so you can seamlessly run your gala and meet your fundraising goals. Consider using one of these key volunteer appreciation strategies: 

  • Shout out your volunteers: Set aside designated moments during your gala to publicly recognize and thank your volunteers for their contributions. For example, you might add a few lines in your opening and closing speeches that highlight the specific roles volunteers played in bringing your gala to life, from setting up your venue to generating digital marketing materials for your website, email newsletter, and social media. While you likely won’t have time to call out every volunteer by name, be sure to shout out the various volunteer committees as well as thank your volunteer director. 
  • Distribute awards: Carve out time for a brief ceremony, such as during a break in your speeches, and hand out awards to outstanding volunteers who truly made a difference in helping to put your gala together. For example, you might hand out awards for categories like the “Leadership Award,” “Teamwork Award,” and “Lifetime Achievement Award” to acknowledge the volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional dedication over an extended period of time. If your gala has a peer-to-peer component, the OneCause guide to fundraising galas also recommends handing out awards to the volunteers who helped to raise the most money. 
  • Set up a recognition wall: Set up a wall at your event that includes pictures of your volunteers, along with their names and roles, so all of your attendees can see the people who made it possible as they walk in. If you don’t have an open available wall at your event venue, consider making a virtual recognition wall and displaying it on a projector. 

Check with your volunteers in advance to see if they’re comfortable with being recognized publicly. You might reserve other forms of recognition, like handwritten thank-you notes or one-on-one meetings, for volunteers who prefer being recognized in private. Send out a quick survey in advance of your event to assess your volunteers’ comfort levels. 

Showing Volunteer Appreciation After Your Fundraising Gala

Congratulations, you’ve wrapped up another successful event! However, your hard work isn’t over just yet. In addition to thanking your donors, you also need to express heartfelt gratitude to your volunteers. Fundraising Letters’ guide to volunteer appreciation recommends using these best practices: 

  • Send personalized thank-you notes: In your thank-you letters, make sure to greet your volunteers with their first names, reference the specific role they played in your gala, and emphasize the impact this made on your mission. Depending on how many volunteers you had, you might not have time to create hundreds of handwritten thank-you notes. Consider using a fundraising platform with built-in communication tools, such as text messaging, to easily send off your thank-you messages to all of your volunteers and add a custom touch. 
  • Host an appreciation event: A post-event celebration is a great way to help your volunteers feel even more special. Recap how much you raised and other key event metrics, such as your total number of attendees or average donation amount, and explain how their efforts made this possible. Consider giving your volunteers lunch or dinner to show you how much you value their time and contributions. 
  • Include volunteers in your event follow-up communications: When you send out follow-up communications to your attendees, such as in your email newsletter, make sure to include a line thanking your volunteers again for everything they did. This kind of public recognition can motivate volunteers to continue supporting your organization in the future. 

Featuring your volunteers on not just one or two, but all of your marketing platforms will ensure that your volunteers will see your public shout-outs and feel appreciated. There are a variety of platforms at your nonprofit’s disposal, including: 

Generate content that is tailored to your different marketing channels and their respective audiences so it has the highest chance of performing well. As a result, you’ll be able to show your volunteers that you care and market your organization’s volunteer program all at once! 

Wrapping Up

Showing appreciation during all stages of your next event will help you boost your volunteer retention rate and encourage volunteers to sign up for future galas, auctions, and other events. Following your fundraising gala, ask your volunteers for feedback so you can enhance your volunteer program and better frame it to their needs and interests. 


About the Author: 

Karrie Wozniak

Creative Director | Founder

Karrie has spent more than a decade bringing innovative technology and fundraising strategies to the nonprofit industry. As one of the first executives at OneCause, Karrie combines her 20 years of experience in marketing with her passion for helping nonprofits expand their reach, leading industry research, marketing strategy, and fundraising consulting initiatives. She is also an active speaker on donor and fundraising trends, and has been featured on, Philanthropy Journal, and Nonprofit Hub.