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Five Tips for Meaningful Volunteer Appreciation

The spring is a popular time for volunteer appreciation as April is National Volunteer Month and the third week of April is National Volunteer Week. To make your volunteer appreciation meaningful, use these five tips to plan your gifts and events.

Tip #1: Show the Big Picture
Volunteers give their time and talents to an organization because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. For your volunteer appreciation event, remind volunteers of the difference they make. For example, the most meaningful recognition for a reading buddies program, in which adults spend time helping young students learn to read, is hearing students read poems or small stories to their mentors. This is simple action reminds volunteers why they share their time and encourages further commitment to the organization.

Don’t restrict these powerful big picture stories to your volunteer appreciation event by celebrate them with the entire organization. Publish stories in your company newsletter, on your intranet, blog, and social media. Shout to the world how much you appreciate your volunteers!

Tip #2: Make the Volunteer Appreciation Special
Your volunteers are often the least recognized individuals in your organization. During their week of appreciation, make them feel like rock stars! A great way to make volunteers feel appreciated is by throwing an event in their honor.

For instance, a volunteer coordinator at a public library annually hosts a sensational event for her volunteers. One year she centered her entire event on the Essential Piece theme. She used the colors from the theme artwork and created additional decorations like puzzle piece placements and puzzle piece cookie bouquets. The entire room was decorated in red, orange, yellow, and purple. At each place setting, volunteers received a memo clip and note cube as a gift. The gifts were carefully selected since the library wanted to make sure the volunteers would be able to use them at home. 

Essential Piece Appreciation Theme

If you’re planning a volunteer appreciation event, get help keeping all the details straight by downloading our Employee Event Check List from the Recognition Resource Center. It will help you keep track of all the details that go into planning an event

#3 Send Appreciation to your Volunteers
It can be difficult - if not impossible - to get all your volunteers together for an appreciation event. Each year the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recognizes volunteers during National Volunteer Week. The theatre has over 600 individual volunteers from throughout the region who help productions go off without a hitch. Can you imagine the difficulty in coordinating that many schedules?!

Instead of getting all the volunteers together during the busy theatre season, the staff says thanks by mailing a greeting card with a personalized message and a small gift to each volunteer. In the past, she’s sent Character Pinsbook marks, and key chains. This is a highly effective volunteer appreciation strategy because volunteers unexpectedly receive mail, a gift, and a personal note. This small gift serves as a big reminder of how much the theatre 
appreciates its volunteers!

A volunteer appreciation gift doesn’t have to be large (shop for gifts under $5), but it does need to be personal. Choose an item that they can use at home, work, or something you know they’ll enjoy.

#4 Present an Award
Present a volunteer appreciation award during National Volunteer Week. Each spring, the Illinois 4-H presents a lifetime volunteer award and a volunteer of the year award. The lifetime award is for individuals who have volunteered for 10 or more years. You can easily create your own award determining award criteria, designing a nomination form, and selecting a team to review the nominations. Present the award at an event to get more miles out of your motivation

Don’t worry; awards don’t have to be expensive. Create award certificates for each volunteer or present Character Pins. Character Pins are affordable awards that are complete with a great award verse, and the lapel pin serves as a lasting reminder of the award. Plus, you can easily create a nicer presentation by displaying it in a presentation board or an engraved presentation board. If you’re presenting awards for your volunteer, download our award presentation guide. It helps you plan your speech for the award and ensures you don’t miss any important parts.

#5 Make It Memorable with a Volunteer Appreciation Theme
Several of these volunteer appreciation examples share similar qualities that make them memorable. First, they use a volunteer appreciation theme. Using a theme coordinates all of your messaging, making it more effective. When your messages are repeated, it’s more likely your audience will remember it. This is one of the reasons we stress recognition themes. A theme not only makes your work easier, but it also sets your program up for success. For recognition theme ideas, see our Top 10 Themes for National Volunteer Appreciation Week

Use these five volunteer appreciation tips to make your recipients feel valued, empowered, and satisfied with your organization during National Volunteer Week and year round. 


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