Why Volunteer Appreciation is Important
2020 was the year we learned to live without. Because of COVID-19, parents had to make new childcare arrangements as daycares and schools temporarily shut their doors. The after-work exercise class that had become as much a part of your daily routine as breakfast and brushing your teeth was taken off the calendar. Sunday brunches with friends were postponed, and plans to visit out-of-state relatives were put on hold.
The pandemic also brought major changes to our professional lives, especially for people working in the nonprofit industry. Seemingly overnight, many go-to tactics for marketing and development became unavailable. In-person programs were no longer an option. Nevertheless, nonprofits quickly adapted, swapping out annual galas and flagship conferences with virtual events and Facebook Lives.
Some things, however, couldn’t be replaced with a Zoom meeting, including a mission-driven organization’s most valuable asset: the people who support your cause, and particularly those committed enough to serve as volunteers!
In fact, due to unforeseen budgetary constraints and increased demand for many services nonprofits provide — a result of more people being out of work, experiencing health problems and facing their own financial hardships — volunteers have become even more indispensable amid the pandemic.
Volunteers are not only doing the work that keeps your organization running — sorting donations at food banks, providing pro-bono legal services to veterans, organizing community baby showers for mothers and babies in need — they’re also some of your very best advocates and cheerleaders. (Not to mention, volunteers donate to charities at twice the rate as non-volunteers.)
That’s why volunteers should be playing a leading role in the stories your organization is telling.
These are individuals who care deeply about your mission. They may have some personal connection to your cause, or perhaps they’ve personally benefited from your programs and services in the past and now are paying it forward. Each of these scenarios makes for compelling, shareable content — the kind that engages people and inspires them to act. (And if you don’t know the stories behind your volunteers, now is the time to ask and find out!)
Highlighting your volunteers and including their stories and voices in the content you share makes them feel valued and appreciated. It reminds them that they’re part of something much bigger and that their efforts are indeed helping others.
People like to be acknowledged and know they’re making a difference — and are more likely to stick around and continue supporting your organization if they know their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Volunteer appreciation isn’t just about saying thank you, it’s about elevating the personal stories of those who give their time to make them feel more included in the organization’s story.
At the same time, sharing these stories helps to build positive brand awareness among other key audiences. Everybody wins! So here are some ideas on how to do it.
How to Show Volunteer Appreciation
Launch a “Volunteer Spotlight” Social Media Campaign
Who doesn’t love a social media shoutout? Once a week, feature a different volunteer. These spotlights can be as simple as posting a photo of a volunteer in action with a quote about what drew them to the cause or why they volunteer.
Create a “Thank You” Video
Thank your volunteers with a video featuring your staff and the individuals or communities you serve. Not all volunteers may work or interact with the people who benefit from your organization’s programs and services, so giving them an opportunity to hear directly from those individuals may help them feel even more connected to the cause.
Ask for Their Feedback — And Take it Seriously!
Volunteers can offer unique and important insights about your organization, programs and the volunteer experience. Soliciting feedback from volunteers on a regular basis — and addressing any concerns — shows that you want to keep them around and have them grow alongside you.
Make it Personal
Even in our age of emojis, gifs and TikToks, nothing beats a heartfelt, personal thank you. A handwritten note, thoughtful email or even a call just to say thank you doesn’t require much legwork from staff and can go a long way.
With April being National Volunteer Month, there has never been a better time to show your volunteers your gratitude and appreciation and to acknowledge the essential role they play in your organization. But even when the month is through, organizations should continue to thank their volunteers all year long.