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10 Awesome Volunteer Appreciation Ideas to Grow Your Nonprofit

No matter how big or small, most public events take place with an army of individuals working behind the scenes. We're not talking about paid workers or personal assistants. We're talking about motivated, hard-working volunteers! So, for nonprofits hosting such events, it’s essential to consider some cool volunteer appreciation ideas to thank them for their outstanding work.  

Volunteers are the real heroes behind many events. Whether it's a fun run, a charity marathon, a church barbecue, or any other nonprofit event, they often work overtime to help make things happen - and hence, deserve a big ‘thank you’!

The grit of volunteers doesn't just come from their work. It comes from the fact that they’re often not paid for their work. They do what they do out of sheer goodness of their hearts rather than for a paycheck. So what if there’s no paycheck? They show up, work hard, and help get things done!

That's precisely why volunteer appreciation ideas should be high on the bucket list of any nonprofit - to keep the unsung heroes motivated.

What Is Volunteer Appreciation?

Volunteer appreciation is how volunteer organizations and event planners can show gratitude and appreciation to their volunteer workforce. After all, volunteer work is hard work, requiring a lot of time and effort.

That's why making your volunteers feel valued is essential. They deserve to know that the show wouldn't go on without them.

The Difference that it Can Make!

While showing a bit of gratitude might not seem like much, it can make a massive difference to volunteers. Volunteers who are told they are valued are likely to put in their best efforts rather than be present for the sake of it.

It’s only human nature that volunteers who are recognized for their great effort become more motivated and productive.

Why Volunteer Appreciation Matters to You

As you'll find out in this article, there are a bunch of reasons why an appreciated volunteer is a better asset for your organization than one who isn’t recognized.

Motivating Volunteers

We all desire to be recognized for our efforts, even when we're putting in those efforts voluntarily. When we volunteer for something and receive recognition, we tend to reflect on who we are and feel motivated to bring an even better version of ourselves next time.

Volunteer recognition helps increase a team's self-esteem and confidence on an individual level. It’s especially true if you're working with a youth program.

Deeper Bonding with Volunteers

A crucial part of volunteering is showing up and having the ability to work with others. By recognizing your volunteers, you create a deeper personal relationship with them - making them much more likely to return again and again.

Ensuring Continued Involvement

A big reason why focusing on volunteer appreciation ideas is vital to your nonprofit is that recognized volunteers are more likely to continue to volunteer in the future.

People feel more confident and self-driven when they receive praise and recognition for their work. It makes recognized volunteers more willing and excited about attending their next volunteer event.

Helping Volunteers Become Donors

Volunteers donate 10x more over their lifetimes than non-volunteers do.

To help every volunteer be confident in their ability to support your organization to their full potential, it’s important to show them how much you appreciate their efforts at every step of the way.

Then, when they reflect on their experiences and their understanding of your needs, they feel genuinely motivated to give to their full potential.

When Budget is a Problem (Dang!)

According to a study by Volunteer Canada, 80% of all organizations say the most common barrier to volunteer recognition is that there isn’t enough money in their budget to do what they plan.

That doesn't mean you can't show your volunteers how much you appreciate their hard work. Well, the hurdle remains: How can you make your volunteers feel appreciated, especially if your organization has a limited or non-existent budget?

Some Volunteer Appreciation Strategies

Did you know that most volunteers want to hear about how their work made a difference or be thanked in person?

That means, whether your nonprofit focuses on small, local events or major global causes, you can always show your good-hearted volunteers that they're valued.

Rethink How to Appreciate Them

It's common for local businesses and various organizations to think of handing out gifts or spending some money on their volunteers.

But many volunteers often say they'd rather see money spent on a good cause than on gifts. So, organizations need to think hard about showing gratitude that resonates with the volunteers.

Investing In Your Volunteers (It’s Not Just About Money!)

Investing in your volunteer workforce doesn't strictly mean a financial investment.

For instance, your organization might consider offering additional training to the volunteers. Or, you could simply go around shaking hands with them and thanking them for their time and effort.

If you want your volunteers to invest their time, you must also invest in them.

Recognize Them on an Individual Level

Recognizing your volunteers in person for the work they put into your organization is crucial. But don't just recognize them as a group. 

Recognize each one of them on an individual level. Try getting to know the volunteers' names and who they are. Ask questions, engage with them, and be genuine when thanking them.

Once you do this, your volunteers will genuinely feel like they’re a part of your cause and be willing to give their best.

Host a Volunteer Appreciation Event

A great way to thank your volunteers is to invite them to an event dedicated to their hard work.

It need not be a gala event. A volunteer appreciation event might be as simple as inviting your volunteers to a barbecue or getting everyone together for some fun activities after your main event gets over.

Take Part in Volunteer Appreciation Week

The National Volunteer Appreciation Week takes place annually in the third week of April. It was started in 1974 by the US government to celebrate volunteerism.

The volunteer-focused occasion isn’t just a great excuse to recognize your volunteers; it ties everyone to an even larger community, making them feel they are part of a movement.

Say 'Thank You', Say it Aloud!

As human beings, we all rely on the opinions of others. It impacts how we feel about ourselves. It’s often said that how we think about ourselves is influenced by how people see us.

Therefore, if volunteers feel like their work is being recognized and appreciated, they'll leave the event feeling good about themselves and what they've done.

So no matter how you choose to recognize your volunteers, never forget to thank them. A simple ‘thank you’ can do wonders.

What is Volunteer appreciation?

Our Favorite Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Even if your organization has a limited volunteer budget, there are plenty of ways in which you can make people feel good about the work they do. Let's dive into our list of the best volunteer appreciation ideas!

1. Write ‘Thank You’ Letters

Organizations can send out ‘thank you’ letters or emails to their volunteers after an event.

It's best to personalize your ‘thank you’ letters by having them hand-written or signed, but even automated emails from a system like Golden work great.

Note that this volunteer appreciation idea is cost-effective for nonprofit organizations. 

2. Make Videos to Celebrate Their Good Work

Most volunteers want to be recognized by knowing how their work is making a difference.

Creating short videos of the event or the work can be a great way to showcase what working together can accomplish.

Plus, you can share your videos on social media, your organization's website, and elsewhere to highlight the volunteers' work.

3. Play it Up on Social Media

Those videos you just made? Or fab photos you took? That’s amazing content to put on social media to highlight the efforts of their volunteers.

It can be done at the group or individual level and can focus on showcasing how vital the volunteers’ efforts are to your organization.

For instance, an organization might write a short post about volunteers and why they chose to help. Or maybe about how much your volunteers contribute to your entity with what they do.

Seeing these stories on social media can help entice new volunteers to sign up for your next event.

Make sure to keep the shout-outs short and sweet, and, when posting publicly about your volunteers, ask for permission first, especially if you plan to use their names or photos.

4. Carve Out Some Space to Recognize Them (A Dedicated Wall, Maybe?)

Ever wondered why businesses often have a dedicated wall for displaying their employees of the month?

Recognizing employee efforts can instill confidence, boost workplace morale, and incentivize others to work hard. And it’s the same case with volunteers as well.

By dedicating a space in your office or around the community, you can help recognize volunteers and the genuine inspiration they bring to your organization.

5. Make their Name Tags Personal

If you’re an organization that makes name tags for your volunteers, you already know how welcome that makes them feel. But have you tried giving them unique name tags?! It’s among the most tried and tested volunteer appreciation ideas.

You can also try creating custom name tags, using nicknames or the positive traits you notice in each volunteer.

For example, if a volunteer named Gladys has a great smile, you might make her a custom name tag for ‘Gladys The Great Smiler’. Either way, getting to know the names of your volunteers is a great way to be more genuine in the work you do together.

Extra hint: Make sure you spell their first and last names correctly!

6. Include Volunteers in Advertising

Does your organization do any advertising, maybe to promote an event online or in print? This is great space to feature your volunteers. While many volunteers don't want to be known publicly, there's nothing wrong with taking out an ad highlighting your appreciation of their work as a whole.

Even better, your volunteers won't feel like you're spending money on them instead of your cause. And yet, you'll be able to show your gratitude.

7. Praise Them Individually (Not Just as a Team)

If your organization sends out newsletters, you might want to highlight individual volunteers in them.

It’s a great way to highlight that volunteers are individual people and that they all have their personalities and reasons for doing volunteer work.

Plus, this shows your volunteers that you genuinely appreciate what they do for the community they serve.

8. Throw an After-Party

So you’ve planned your organization’s biggest event of the year, and you pulled it off without a hitch! You already know about all the hard work that goes into it. So why not celebrate the completion of your event by hosting a victory party for your volunteers?

Throwing a small party, whether a pizza party, dance party, or just a casual get-together, is a great way to bring your volunteers together, celebrate what you've all accomplished, and show them that you care.

9. Tell Them About the Impact of Their Work

This is often the best way to show your volunteers how much you appreciate their work.

Rather than offering physical gifts, you can show them that what they're doing contributes to their community. For instance, maybe your organization works with older adults or specially-abled people.

In either case, you could get a group of volunteers together to tell them in person how much their efforts have impacted their lives.

10. Welcome Volunteer Feedback 

A nice way to show appreciation is to encourage volunteers to share feedback on their experiences.

This volunteer recognition idea has an effect where your active volunteers will have the opportunity to voice any questions, concerns, or opinions they have.

And at the same time, you get the benefit of learning how your volunteers perceive their work to support your organization's mission.


Volunteer appreciation ideas

Set up a Rewards and Recognition Program

Kind words are all you need to show your appreciation. But if you want to create a lasting impression or a viral community - rewards can make your gestures extra memorable.

Golden supports a program called Karats, which celebrates volunteers for who they are rather than what they have. When you volunteer with any organization that uses Golden, you earn Karats for the time you and others you invite to join you completed.

Karats enter you in Drawings for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like going backstage with Billie Eilish, flying a fighter jet, or sitting courtside for an NBA game! 

You can’t buy Karats, redeem them for prizes, or know when you’re going to win - you simply might have a chance to win by volunteering, and that chance increases the more you volunteer and motivate others to volunteer.

Golden knows that your volunteers are worth their weight in gold! That’s why, with us, you get Karats – a social currency that recognizes the contribution of your volunteers in a unique way. Check it out now.

Get Started

Organizers on Golden can also create their own rewards and triggers to earn Karats, designed specifically around their audiences of volunteers and the nature of their programs. In fact, many companies use Karats to help celebrate employee volunteerism!

Whether you have specific ideas in mind for rewards or not, it’s helpful to start thinking about extra memorable experiences you can offer your volunteers. These experiences don’t need to be expensive. They just need to be memorable.

Want to Better Manage Your Volunteers?

Volunteer recognition is part of a larger effort by nonprofits to manage their volunteer workforces. What better way to manage your volunteers than to bank on an easy-to-use platform that’ll take care of all your operational hassles? 

One such platform is Golden Volunteer. With its volunteer management software, volunteer centers, local nonprofits, and other organizations can brainstorm more volunteer appreciation ideas and show their volunteers that they're valued. 

Whether your organization looks to host an after-event party or wants to gift something meaningful to the givers, Golden's volunteer management software is designed to handle that and much more. It might just be the ideal volunteer-handling platform for your organization.

Don't Lose Your Unsung Heroes!

While many organizations want to do more for their volunteers, the harsh reality is that some volunteer programs often have limited budgets and can't afford to pay for extras.

But even if your organization doesn't have the financial resources desired, that doesn't mean you can't do things to appreciate your volunteers.

Always remember that an appreciated volunteer is a valuable asset to your organization. There are cost-effective ways to show gratitude and motivate them for your next big event. That’s why add to your bucket list the volunteer appreciation ideas we’ve chalked out for you.

Volunteers are as vital to you as your events are. They’re your unsung heroes. Don’t lose them!