Volunteers form the backbone of many of the UK’s leading charities. Over the last two years, nearly 12 million people volunteered at least once a month! Volunteers are key to successful fundraising campaigns; they also lend special skill sets and expertise, perform critical administrative tasks and help raise the overall visibility and impact of your charity. All very important things! Which is why it’s essential to show your support and dedication for these important people, and the end of the year is the perfect opportunity to do so in a meaningful way. Here, we share some cost-effective and creative ways to show your support and say thank you to your valuable volunteers.
1. Give them small but special tokens of gratitude.
Unlike your VIP supporters or corporate partners, your volunteers might not appreciate lavish thank you gifts as this is an expense that could otherwise go to your shared critical cause. Instead, show volunteers appreciation by giving them small, but meaningful tokens of thanks. You could design this around the theme of the holiday season and gift every volunteer a handwritten card and message, along with a small gift, like a keyring, enamel badge, clothing or gift card. This could be a special, exclusive item reserved solely for volunteers – meaning that no one else gets one – not a donor, employee or other partner. Take for example how Dementia Friends has built a community of volunteers with its specially designed badges.
2. Hold an annual appreciation event.
Consider holding a special appreciation event for your volunteers to show your gratitude. This doesn’t have to be a formal or expensive affair. Instead, think about what your volunteers would enjoy, perhaps an ice cream social, a holiday pot luck or a tea party.
Whatever you plan, make it special and different from your other events. Perhaps rent a photo booth to capture some of the fun and celebratory moments. Or allow volunteers to invite their friends, family or even their employer to the event so they can receive the full appreciation they deserve. If possible, create a slideshow or presentation featuring photos and stories of your volunteer crew throughout the year. What about a surprise party? Consider creating little party favour bags for your volunteers with some of the small gifts we mentioned above – these could be given out to all volunteers or you could make a game out of it, like a trivia contest, raffle or by matching numbers or symbols for a particular gift with a volunteer’s seat or place setting. The holidays are a logical theme for a year-end appreciation party, but what about a western theme, a “DONUT” theme or a movie night?
3. Give a public shout-out.
A JoinInUK study sums up a few things that volunteers want, including personal growth, an increased sense of purpose, a social opportunity to make new friends and recognition. One way to deliver on some of these desires is with a public acknowledgement of their work. Consider showcasing your volunteers on your charity website or social media channels. This would also be a great feature in any sort of annual report, newsletter or holiday card that is shared with your larger network.
The charity Safeline, for example, has a page dedicated to its volunteers, thanking them for their contributions and mentioning just a few of the many important things volunteers do for the cause. Safeline also highlights some of the benefits that its volunteers may experience as a result, including increased confidence in trying something new, being part of a community, learning new skills and as a resume builder. Your charity might do something similar and dedicate a page to your volunteers, perhaps with a few photos or personal stories, with their permission, of course.
Do you have a connection to a council? You might also consider reaching out to council leaders to see if they can make a statement thanking local volunteers for their service.
4. Give a great award.
Another great way to thank your volunteers this holiday season is to nominate them for awards, such as “Volunteer of the Year” or “Most Inspirational”. The awards could be incorporated into an appreciation party or all-staff event to call even more attention to your top volunteers. Awards could be as simple as a glitter enamel badge that they can wear with pride, a special medal or a personalised gift set. Giving awards to a few special volunteers might also motivate other volunteers to do more or encourage new volunteers to get involved with your charity.
Aside from providing due thanks, there’s a financial incentive to recognising your volunteers. While much of this work is unpaid, the donation of time does have clear value; one source estimates the value of volunteer time as £18 per hour, which could factor into a total “gift” of £19,000 or more over a year or a lifetime, among all your volunteers.
We hope this post helps you identify a few creative, low-cost and meaningful ways to thank your important volunteers this holiday season. You can repeat any of these strategies at any time of year, too, perhaps at a second summer appreciation event like a picnic or boat cruise.
What other ideas do you have? Please get in touch with us today to put together the perfect plan for a meaningful thank you this holiday season or any time.