Nonprofit Management: Five Ways to Show Volunteers You Value Them
Expressing gratitude is an important part of your nonprofit’s foundation. Most nonprofits cannot function without the help and hard work of their volunteers. It is important for nonprofit leaders to recognize their contribution.
Expressing gratitude is critical to retaining volunteers. Part of your budget, which includes administrative expenses, should include volunteer appreciation. There are few who will stay with an organization if their efforts go unnoticed or unused. Here are five ways to show your gratitude for your volunteers’ hard work.
Let them eat cake!
A post event or end of the year party is a nice way to recognize volunteers. One caveat, build this party into the budget and avoid asking the volunteers to contribute to it. Volunteers work hard, let them simply show up and enjoy themselves without having to contribute to raffle baskets, admission fees, or organizing duties. Put your frugal leader hat on and plan an event that is free of charge. Many communities rent out their public facilities at a nominal or no cost. If you can afford it, allow volunteers to bring a guest or their families.
Take care of them while they are working
Your volunteers are your workhorses. Some give their time and work every day at desk jobs answering phones or teaching and some volunteer from home.
I work with nonprofits at the founder level, getting them through their incorporation and 501(c)(3) filings. In addition, I like to run festivals, galas and other large-scale fundraising events. As a coordinator, I manage people, sponsors, and facilities and sales to make sure the event runs smoothly. These single or multi-day or weekend events can be exhausting. I make the best effort I can to make sure my volunteers are working on something they enjoy. Volunteers are supplied with snacks or meals whether the event covers that expense or not. If not, I pay for it or seek additional donations to defray the cost.
Ensuring volunteers feel cared for and respected for their time and talent is the most important part of managing.
My kids volunteer at many events with me. They have done everything from being t-shirt salespeople, to short-order cooks to door greeters. I asked my son, “What’s the best thing that makes you feel appreciated?” He said, “I like to get SWAG.” That is SWAG (Stuff We All Get). He likes getting stuff from sponsors. Half of this is that he likes to get gifts. The other part is he is proud to donate his time!
Ask sponsors ahead of time if they want extra shirts, water bottles and other leftover swag returned. Most do not mind if you hand out their branded items. The best part is the gift of SWAG won’t cost you a penny!
These are easy and free! Be sure they are genuine. There is a lot of writing and opinion about delivering “strategic compliments.” I prefer compliments that are natural, genuine, spontaneous, and not planned. When checking up on your volunteers, pick out something they have done well and let them know how helpful it was. If you are coordinating an event, make the effort to visit the various sites or areas where pick out something that is right and tell them about it.
The goal of a wrap-up dinner is gather feedback about an event. For 13 years, I worked as a coordinator at a large four-day annual fundraiser with a nonprofit sports organization in central New Jersey. Within a month of the fundraiser, we would have a dinner at a local restaurant for the volunteer event staff. This gave everyone a chance to review the event with everyone taking a turn at what went well, not so well and in general a chance to share and laugh at the sheer madness at working our tails off! The round-robin format over dinner made us feel appreciated and that our input and opinion mattered. Most importantly, our comments were usually incorporated into next year’s plans.
Thank You Notes
Can’t afford any of the above? A thank you note is an inexpensive way to show you value your volunteers. Handwritten thank you note are better simply because they make it more personal. Be sure to mention the role they filled, why it was important and how it helped the organization. ? Even if a party is within your budget, a thank you note is a nice way to show appreciation.