CELEBRATE SERVICE, is the theme for National Volunteer Week, April 10-16, 2016. This one week honors the people who dedicate themselves to solving problems in communities. It’s about taking action and encouraging and motivating others to engage in in causes of which they feel passionately.
Here are some ideas on how to honor volunteers all year round:
Let them know the difference that they have made and how their service furthers the mission of the organization.
A few years ago we surveyed local hospital Nursing Administrators about the volunteers who serve in their department. The results were pretty impressive. They reported that the service of their volunteers saved them between 1 to 2.5 hours per day. 100% of them reported that they were able to spend more time with their patients because of their volunteers. When we shared results with the volunteers they understood how they were making a difference.
Provide food for your volunteers when they work.
Everyone likes a little treat now and then. The same applies to volunteers. Be sure to provide food and drink for them as they work. It keeps them energized and shows that you care.
Get to know your volunteers.
Take five minutes out of your schedule to ask them how they are doing and ask about their life. Take an interest in them personally. Give them the opportunity to tell you about their family, work, or passion. Maybe they can talk about the reason that they chose to volunteer at your agency.
Make sure that they enjoy their work
Ask them if they are okay with their volunteer responsibly. Be sure to check in with your volunteers regularly, especially if your volunteers are located in some back room or storage area where people don’t usually go. If they’re looking tired, give them a break. If they’re looking bored, offer to give them a different task.
Reward your volunteers with small tokens of gratitude and awards
Who doesn’t like gifts? Give volunteers a thank you gift, even something as small as a Starbucks gift card. We give our VITA Tax Volunteers a “Pay Day” candy bar and an update on the number of tax returns completed and dollar refunds to the people that they have assisted. It’s a small token and it’s funny. But it works!
Are there any volunteers who have gone above and beyond? Nominate them for awards such as “Volunteer of the Year.” You can even get creative and have multiple categories, such as “Most Inspirational,” “Most Enthusiastic,” etc.
Write a handwritten thank you card to your volunteers
Sometimes the best way to show you appreciate your volunteers is the old fashioned way — sending them a thank you card. A hand-written card is a treasure from a bygone era that shows they are appreciated and an important part of the organization.
I’m sure everyone can think of more ways to thank these wonderful folks. It’s a great investment and will make both the volunteer, you, and your staff much happier. Celebrate Volunteer Week!