Keeping It Simple

Many Volunteer Coordinators struggle with finding the most appropriate way to recognize their volunteers.  Some organizations have the budget to put on big, fancy dinners complete with award ceremonies and gift giveaways.  Some organizations don’t.  This post is dedicated to offering simple solutions to the individuals and organizations who want to recognize the awesomeness of their volunteers without hurting their pockets. 

A thank you from the clients:  Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than a thank you directly from the clients who receive the benefit of your volunteer’s service.  Actually hearing the clients acknowledge how your volunteer’s service has impacted their lives is priceless.  A great way to do this inexpensively is to have clients write letters or even to create a video with clients talking about their experiences.

Symbol Gifts:  Another great way to personalize a “thank you” is to acknowledge the individual traits and contributions of your volunteers by way of symbol gift presentations.  A symbol gift is a small gift that you give someone that represents a specific aspect of that particular person.  For example, if you have a volunteer who you know loves kittens and loves to read; an appropriate symbol gift might be book mark with a picture of a kitten on it.  You could make your symbol gift relative to that person or to the person’s volunteer experience.  The point is to make the gift as specific as possible so that the volunteer who you are recognizing feels like you appreciate them for who they are and for their personal experience.  Volunteers will appreciate the thought put into the personalizing of their symbol gift.

Personal notes:  Another great way to recognize volunteers individually is to write them personal notes.  If they’ve just served at an event or participated above and beyond what is normally required, send them something in the mail or leave a note for them in their inbox.  The point is to make sure your volunteer feels like their service is being acknowledged and appreciated. 

Group Outings:  Nothing says thank you like a group of people getting together and having fun.   Now, I know you’re saying to yourself “Didn’t she just get finished talking about how big events hurt the pockets?” In this case, I’m suggesting soliciting an in-kind donation from a local business that values the contribution of volunteers.  For example, most Cici’s Pizza Buffet Restaurants are fantastic at offering free passes to organizations for the purpose of recognizing volunteers.  This option is better for those organizations that have a smaller volunteer base.  For organizations with a larger volunteer base, it may be good to contact a local museum to see if they can offer your volunteers discount coupons, or offer your organization a discount night where all your volunteers can visit the venue and bring their families.  Making your recognition events fun and family friendly will be greatly appreciated!

This is just a smattering of ideas for recognizing the contribution of your volunteers.  This is the season for volunteer recognition, so take advantage of this beautiful weather and say thank you!

Other resources for Volunteer Recognition:


Energize Inc.

Cute Ideas

National Volunteer Week

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