Best Practices: Thanking Volunteers Using Online Surveys

Editor’s note: Sometimes it’s the tools themselves that provide the best inspiration. In this case, some folks from an online movie rental company have suggestions for how to show your volunteers some appreciation…

Guest post by Brianna Weinstein & B.C. Ung

Recognize volunteers via online surveys and incentives!

Free movies are a great way to say “thanks!”

Each year millions of volunteers donate their time to nonprofits expecting nothing in return except to feel good about the effort they contributed. They assist your organization because they believe in your cause and hope to make a difference.

Yet, many times, the first volunteer experience doesn’t go as planned and the volunteer for a variety of reasons doesn’t continue to support the organization with a donation of their time.


In the blog post Nonprofit Volunteers: Top Five Tips to Keep Them Coming, author Ilona Bray, J.D., highlights 5 critical activities your organization must do to engage new volunteers including:

  1. Tap Into Volunteers’ Motives
  2. Tell Volunteers What You Expect
  3. Make Volunteering Convenient
  4. Make Volunteering Fun
  5. Show Appreciation

While each of these activities is equally important for volunteer engagement many nonprofits struggle with cost effective ways to Show Appreciation (#5).

At txtMovies, we’ve noticed a trend where nonprofits are using online surveys to show appreciation and at the same time collect valuable feedback.

You might think that making a volunteer fill out a survey doesn’t sound like you’re showing them much appreciation. And we would agree that a 75 question survey that takes 45 minutes to complete would not seem like sincere gratitude.

However, a well-designed, brief survey (think <4 minutes to fill out) that includes a survey incentive, such as a “movie of their choice,” is a great way to say “we appreciate you” and “we value your opinion”.

In this regard, how can your organization benefit from this approach?

What if you could better understand why volunteers donate their time on an individual basis?

  • What if you could determine if a volunteer’s service met their expectations?
  • What if you could learn how to make it more convenient for volunteers to donate their time.
  • What if you could discover what aspects of their service most appealed to each volunteer?
  • What if you could do all of the above and show volunteers your appreciation at the same time?

Now we know what you’re thinking. This sounds time consuming and expensive. The reality is far different. Most online survey software is easy to use and free (or at least discounted for nonprofit organizations). And treating volunteers to a “movie of their choice” via txtMovies is only $1.99 per movie. Not exactly a budget buster.

So if your organization relies upon volunteers, try showing them your appreciation using online survey incentives. By analyzing and acting on the feedback you receive, you could potentially increase the number and quality of volunteers who sincerely want to contribute to your cause.

Briana Weinstein is an undergraduate scholar athlete at the University of Southern California. B.C. Ung is a board advisor to txtMovies and has volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Clubs in a fundraising capacity.

(Photo from AFS-USA Intercultural Programs on Flickr.)

Use This Awesome Free Graphic to Say “Thanks!” to Your Volunteers

Happy FestiVOL! As part of this week’s celebration of everything that’s fun about volunteering, here’s a super cool graphic that you can customize to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them.

Customize this cool graphic to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them for National Volunteer Week and FestiVOL!

Click here to easily customize and download the graphic, and then share it on your blog, on social media and over email, and be sure to use the hashtag #VolunteerHeroes to share inspiring stories.

Great job Nonprofit Toolkit for coming up with this graphic – we can always use more super heroes in this world! Make sure you thank the ones who are already helping your organization.

How are you celebrating National Volunteer Week? Let us know using hashtag #FestiVOL!

It’s FestiVOL Season

Volunteering is the best, right? So this year, in honor of National Volunteer Week, we’ve decided to celebrate volunteers and the difference they make by launching a spectacular week-long FestiVOL – and we want YOU to join us!

Why FestiVOL?

Join VolunteerMatch for FestiVOL, a week-long celebration of volunteering in honor of National Volunteer Week.At VolunteerMatch, we hope FestiVOL will help your organization make the most of National Volunteer Week. Whether it‘s appreciating your volunteers, strengthening existing relationships, or building new ones, VolunteerMatch will be providing tips on how you can increase engagement.

Part of our goal for FestiVOL is to help more nonprofit organizations – like yours – find the right volunteers. So each day we will release three “nuggets” just for you: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. We hope you’ll share these with your volunteers and community members, learn from them, and encourage everyone to get more involved.

What about ways that you can make an impact volunteering? FestiVOL will also provide resources to encourage your own participation in the community. Often times, simply sharing what causes you are passionate about can inspire others to make a difference, as well.

Join FestiVOL!

FestiVOL will run from April 6-12. You can see all the nuggets as we release them on the FestiVOL landing page.

You and your nonprofit can join FestiVOL by following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the hashtag #FestiVOL. We hope FestiVOL gives you the energy, passion and ideas to make our communities stronger and our world happier all year long!

How will YOU celebrate volunteering during FestiVOL?

Gorgeous FestiVOL graphic designed by Katy Roby.

5 Fun Gift Ideas Your Volunteers Will Love

5 fun gift ideas your volunteers will loveThere are plenty of reasons to give your volunteers a gift: the holidays, National Volunteer Week, to say “thanks,” just to see them smile…  Which means you need plenty of ideas for these gifts that fit within your organization’s budget (or lack thereof).

Here are some fun gift ideas that are fairly inexpensive that we guarantee your volunteers will love – no matter why you’re giving it.

1. Throw Them a (Holiday) Party

They work hard together – give them a chance to have some fun together. If your organization is already having a party during the holidays, invite your volunteers to join in! If not, schedule a get-together that doesn’t revolve around getting work done.

2. Personalized Ornaments

Whether they will hang from a Christmas tree or liven up a Hanukkah menorah, get your fellow staff members to help you with a simple craft project. Printing out pictures of the volunteers to include is also a nice touch!

3. Give Them Something to Share with Friends and Family

They are an important part of your organization’s family – help them spend time with their own by giving them a gift to share. Some great ideas include a popcorn kit, some movie passes, board games or a big puzzle.

4. The Gift of Relaxation

Find a local massage therapist in your neighborhood and hire them (or engage them for some pro bono volunteering!) to come in during a volunteer event to give 15 minute massages to your volunteers. This is definitely something they can’t do for themselves!

5. This Awesome “Things We Love About Volunteers” Calendar

Thanks to Energize, Inc. for leading us to this delightful 2014 calendar created especially for volunteers. This is also a great present to get yourself to hang up in the office…

What other fun gift ideas do you have for volunteers?

96 Ways and Counting to Recognize Your Volunteers

Ballarat Volunteer Fire Brigade has attended calls this year - public volunteer recognition

Recognizing volunteers publicly

It’s tough to measure all the ways volunteers help us do our work. Whether it’s making sure our events run smoothly, activating their online networks for our fundraising campaigns, giving their time, expertise and resources as board members, or any of the other myriad contributions volunteers make to help nonprofits fulfill their missions, needless to say they make a big difference.

So it makes sense that the list of ways to recognize the contribution of volunteers would be long. Like, VERY long.

A discussion in the VolunteerMatch LinkedIn group recently set out to list the best ways to recognize and appreciate volunteers – and so far we’re up to 96! Clearly this is a hot topic, and one for which we can all use some peer support.


If you’re looking for great ways to recognize your volunteers, or you have some creative ideas to share, join the VolunteerMatch LinkedIn group and contribute to the discussion.

For now, I’ve curated all of the amazing suggestions and listed the top 20 volunteer recognition ideas for you.

Recognize your volunteers with:

  • T-shirts
  • Books
  • Gift cards and discount coupons from local businesses
  • Keychains, flashlights, pins, pens, and other little bits of swag from your org
  • Photos of themselves in action
  • Hand-written notes signed by the staff
  • Thank you letters from those they served/impacted
  • Recognition events
  • Parties
  • Mentions and thanks on social media
  • Donations in their name
  • Letters to their bosses or family members recognizing their contributions
  • Free membership to the organization
  • A smile and a “thank you”
  • Showing them the impact of their work
  • Training and education sessions to help them develop their skills
  • Asking them how it’s going and and how could be better
  • Nominating them for a Presidential Volunteer Service Award
  • Telling their story in your newsletter
  • Giving them greater responsibility in the organization

Intrigued? For more great ideas and to share your own, join the VolunteerMatch LinkedIn group and check out this discussion.

(Photo from Lachlan Hardy on Flickr)