Guest post by Chris Martin
Gratitude is the most powerful thing in the world. It’s said that it’s not happy people who are thankful but rather it’s thankful people who are happy.
Yet, recent studies have painted society as losing its civility, especially in the workplace. It seems that some people have confused niceties with inefficiencies and compliments with ulterior motives. And in our nonprofit space, this will not do.
Let’s put the gratitude back into our attitude. Volunteer appreciation should be the most important mandate we have. If it isn’t, there’s no time like the present for a nice change of pace.
Want to make sure your volunteers know you’re grateful for their service? Follow these suggestions and you’re sure to make them feel like the sun shines just for them!
- Get involved alongside them.
Nothing says “buy in” like the Executive Director or supervisors stepping into the fray of serving food, signing up registrants, or helping to coordinate events at the ground level (roles often filled by volunteers).
Showing your volunteers that their job is so important that even the highest management member would help will say a lot about your trust in that person and the job that they do. And as a bonus, isn’t it nice to have someone lend you a helping hand when you’re working hard?
- Share their impact with them in a way that they can pass on.
Creating a simple image like an infographic with key metrics detailing the volunteer program and how it impacted a community is a great way of demonstrating how their time and effort helped. In turn, volunteers can share that information on their social media channels, with friends and family and say, “I helped this effort, I made a difference.” Isn’t that something we’d all like to say?
- Ask for their opinions – and fully listen.
Having a sit down with some volunteers during program planning stages or between shifts is a great way to explain upcoming initiatives and engage with your volunteers while getting crucial feedback. Make sure to pay attention to the second part: Listening.
If you’re going to ask for an opinion, you owe it to that person to take what they say seriously. Think for a second: who in your life always listens the best? Become that person for your volunteers. Engage with them; acknowledge their ideas; and then draft your response rather than drafting a response in your head while they’re still talking. The difference that ‘thinking after rather than during’ makes will astound you.
- Write a blog post or social media post dedicated entirely to them.
Did you launch a new initiative that far exceeded expectations? Don’t just say ‘thanks’ to the volunteer(s), show your supporters that you’re grateful by telling their story.
- Write a letter – but not to them.
Think outside the box: Write a letter to your boss telling them how grateful you are that you have such an outstanding volunteer serving your organization.
Gush to your boss about how fortunate you are that your organization has such amazing volunteers – and really drive home the accomplishments and efforts they’ve made. Then, feel free to let the volunteer know. Even better, management could print the letter off and take it to the volunteers directly to recognize how excellent they are.
Larger organizations can replicate this by writing a letter about a team that runs/ran an event and have upper management read it to volunteers at a debriefing.
- Place a handwritten note in a card and mail it. Yes, as in made with a pen and paper.
Nowadays, everything is done digitally. This is largely a good thing, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be digital all the time. Isn’t getting mail exciting now that it has become a total novelty? It sure would be nice to receive a mailed letter that isn’t a bill!
- Drop the business talk and speak to them on a personal level.
Telling them how they’ve helped your charity is amazing and essential, but don’t forget to tell them how they’ve helped you. Remind them that it’s volunteers like them who make your job a joy.
- Lastly, say “thank you.”
Above all else, a simple, heartfelt “thank you” can make the difference in someone’s opinion of their experience – and your organization. Additionally, if you want to get really creative, say it in different words or funny phrases.
About the author: Chris Martin is a former social worker and currently the Senior Marketing Coordinator for Charity Republic, a company specializing in promoting volunteerism and community engagement via accessible and efficient technology solutions.