Saying & Showing Thanks to Volunteers

by Peggy Hoffman

How can we say thank you to our volunteers? In this crazy, roller coaster year, I’ve found my volunteers have stepped up in so many ways to assure our associations meet the members’ needs. In fact, we’ve been able to create incredible value in the form of content, counsel, resources and friendship for our members thanks largely to our volunteers. As an executive director, I couldn’t have done what our members needed without – well members.

So, let’s say thanks. Here are three ways.

Turn on appreciation. We offer a fun list here to get you started (see Saying Thanks to Volunteers on Mariner Blog).

  1. Send a personal holiday card – through the mail! Visit Poemsource for ideas.
  2. Give a free registration to a professional development activity of their choice in the coming year.  
  3. Get each staff member (or other volunteers) to write something positive about the person on a piece of paper, and give them the box of collected sayings, or frame them. The inspiration for this entry came from 51 Ways To Reward Employees Without Money which has a number of good ideas worth checking out.
  4. Prepare a short video montage that celebrates the employee’s accomplishments. Check out Animoto to make this easy.
  5. Give a gift certificate to your association bookstore. Or make that a gift card to a larger library like Barnes & Noble.
  6. Give a gift card to create their own art from their favorite photos; we like Fracture.

Deliver on the WIIFM. Association volunteers are pro-social meaning they are motivated to volunteer by a blend of career impact and contribution to the greater good. Here are two ways to connect with the WIIFM.

  • Turning your volunteer job into an educational experience. Act on this in a small way by baking in education e.g., at a committee or board meeting tie in a short 15-minute skill development session. Go big and build a leadership skill development track as a benefit of volunteering.  This can be tied into your LMS. Bonus, while you offer volunteers access for free, you can market it as product for members.
  • Bring volunteers up to date on progress toward your organization’s goals. Show volunteers how the association is making a difference and connect their efforts to that success. When a task is accomplished – do you share the impact of the work immediately? Do you provide updates to volunteers that share true progress on goals?

Eliminate the detractors. The ASAE Foundation Study on what makes a Mutually Beneficial Volunteer System highlighted a few to consider including

  • Make your volunteers time commitment meaningful. Assure meetings are well-run, resources available and outcomes clear. Create jobs that have results and measurable impact.
  • Create accessible volunteering by leveraging technology and offering short-term, micro and virtual opportunities.

One final thought: saying thanks is more that appreciation. The sincerest recognition is putting our members’ ideas and work into action, letting their work generate outcomes. Recognition comes when volunteers see their efforts made a difference for the association.

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