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Tis the Season for Thanking Volunteers

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‘Tis the season of holidays, gratitude, celebration, and, yes, a bit of stress, too. The last six weeks of the year are always busy times. Whether planning work events, juggling family and social engagements, or trying to get ready for a much-needed vacation, many of us find our days and nights to be full and demanding. At the same time, the season often inspires us to reflect and express gratitude. Volunteers certainly make my list of “things I am grateful for” each year and I always try to express that gratitude to the volunteers who contribute their time to the organizations in which I am involved.

As is often discussed, volunteers today have varied motivations and expectations for volunteering—ranging from making an impact, connecting with other like-minded individuals, gaining skills, sharing skills, and just having fun. As a result, traditional methods of recognizing and thanking volunteers (pins or plaques for years of service) often don’t resonate across generations and individuals. The good news is that thanking volunteers and acknowledging their work do not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. The most important factor in meaningfully acknowledging volunteers is that we be sincere in our thanks.

So, in the spirit of the season, here are a few suggestions of ways to sincerely express gratitude and appreciation for the volunteers who help keep our organizations going throughout the rest of the year.

Share the impact of their work with organizational leadership, the community, and, of course, with the volunteers themselves.

  • Communicate how many individuals the organization has reached as a result of volunteer efforts. How many meals served, kids tutored, programs expanded, hours of staff time saved, etc.

Provide opportunities to gain new skills.

  • Present volunteers with a coupon to be redeemed in the coming year for registration to a relevant conference or training session, a chance to be mentored by an expert, a complimentary ticket to an upcoming lecture on a topic that relates to their volunteer work.

Create a fun way to show appreciation.

  • Create humorous but supportive awards such as, “Most patient usher or tour guide,” “Best Zoom background image,” or “Most supportive smile” and present them at the volunteer holiday gathering.
  • Develop a slide show or photo album highlighting volunteers throughout the year.

Don’t forget what your mother taught you.

  • Write a short and sweet thank you note, personalized and sincere. There’s nothing better than that!


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