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5 Tips to Engage and Recognize Volunteers

There are many aspects to running a volunteer program, but few are as important as how you engage and thank your volunteers. Engaging through authentic and intentional paths builds opportunities for people to become motivated and committed. When volunteers have affirmation of their value to the volunteer program it creates a desire to be a part of your organization moving forward. (Psst, if you’re new to the volunteer coordinator role we’ve got a whole guide for you😉)

So where do you start? Well . . . we have five tips to help.

Tip #1: Be authentic, realistic, and transparent 

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  • Engage through volunteer role descriptions: These can be the most crucial tool to help with communication and recruitment. These role descriptions also help to outline expectations and boundaries. It tells the public that you have thought about your needs, and attracts those who are genuinely interested in the work.
  • Recognize your volunteers: Share how the volunteers are making an impact on your organization and community served through newsletters, social media, and events. Keep in mind how your volunteers like to be thanked and recognized as well. Do they love getting thank you notes, little branded gifts, or coming to ‘thank you’ events where they meet other volunteers? Making sure they feel valued is key.

Tip #2: Provide support, supervision, and training

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  • Engage through skill development opportunities: These can be trainings or offerings that support the volunteers in their role at your nonprofit, or help them develop a new skill. Either way, it is about investing in the growth and development of volunteers as they serve the nonprofit. 
  • Train staff to work with volunteers: This allows everyone to understand the expectations and responsibilities of volunteers. It also gives volunteers an opportunity to learn from staff that work on other programs. Plus, your whole staff becomes a part of the volunteer community, building trust, relationships, and camaraderie. 

Tip #3: Build a community where people know and trust one another

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  • Engage through community: Create virtual and in-person spaces for volunteers to connect with and get to know each other. You can set expectations for involvement, including that guidelines for respect. Think, “How can I bring these amazing humans together in safe and accessible ways so that they can see how awesome they are?”
  • Show your volunteers that they’re worth investing in: By creating these spaces and opportunities to connect without an agenda, you’re showing volunteers that they’re worth investing in. When volunteers are encouraged to build relationships, you may see that they stick around longer and bring new people with them. 

Tip #4: Empower volunteers to be advocates, to be ambassadors, to be leaders

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  • Engage through communication: Break down your org’s volunteer needs and communicate them. For example, do you have a need you don’t know how to fill? You can ask your current volunteers to help. Tell them what you need, and then let them fill that need. Empower your volunteers to bring their expertise and skills to the table. But make your communication is clear with what you *actually* need.
  • Recognize those who step into these roles and celebrate them! This may become a new job description or even a new group of volunteers. Take this opportunity to thank those who step in and fill the need (either publicly or privately, depending on the perspective of the volunteer and what they are comfortable with).

Tip #5: Take time to be thankful and show it

Thank You Volunteers!
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  • Engage through intentional gratitude: This could be mailing out thank you and birthday cards to volunteers that all staff sign (yep, you read that right, snail mail!), hosting appreciation lunches, recognizing years of service, or maybe even throwing a surprise party for your volunteers. When expressing gratitude, the sky is the limit! Just make sure you mean it.
  • Recognize that everyone has different comfort levels: Not everyone appreciates a public show of gratitude, while others revel in it. Get to know your volunteers and their preferences. This can be added to onboarding as a form they complete on how they like to be thanked and things that matter to them that they would like to receive as a volunteer thank you!

Now you know some good ways to highlight all of the super important work your volunteers do.

Gratitude is everything! Thank you, volunteers!

Photo Brandy Strand
Brandy Strand
Nonprofit Partnerships Account Executive

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.