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.)