Last week we started sharing helpful tips and advice from our recent “Get On Board” workshop hosted by cityCURRENT and The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. Our speaker was Dr. Sarah Petschonek, founder and Executive Director of Volunteer Odyssey; and our topic centered on how to grow and maintain loyal volunteer support and how to create impactful volunteer experiences. We started with a discussion of culture, so this week let’s highlight a few of Sarah’s “30 Creative Ways to Reward Volunteers.”
I mean, let’s face it, we all appreciate a pat on the back every once in a while for a job well done, especially if we’re volunteering and freely giving our time and talents to help fulfill a nonprofit’s mission. Simple things like a smile, handwritten thank you card, or having your Executive Director stop by and personally say “Thank You” go a long way toward making volunteers feel appreciated and inspiring them to come back and recruit others to join them next time. Taking it a step further, consider putting up a welcome sign at the entrance, where you can thank volunteers by name as they come in the door. You could make volunteers a special laminated name badge to make them feel like they’re part of the team; or, designate special parking spaces for volunteers or a Volunteer of the Month.
If you spend time getting to know your volunteers and their preferences for being acknowledged – for example, some like public praise while others prefer a private thanks – you can make the experience more special. You could have a “For Volunteers Only” stash of their favorite snacks or drinks or surprise them with movie theater tickets or a gift card to a restaurant they enjoy. Many times you can work with movie theaters, sub shops, restaurants, and even sports teams to get free coupons or ask some of your corporate supporters for in-kind trade that you can give out to reward your volunteers. You could also plant a tree, bush or flower in their honor or name something, like one of your rooms, after them for certain period of time.
Another powerful way to show appreciation and reward your volunteers is to celebrate them on social media. Posting pictures or video footage of your volunteers in action allows you to publically praise their efforts while also expanding the reach of your marketing efforts, as well. Tagging them, like on a Facebook picture, allows them to share the image with their personal network of family, friends, and co-workers.
These are just a sampling of the many ways you can creatively and inexpensively reward and incentivize your volunteers. The more volunteers feel appreciated and valued, the longer and harder they’ll work to help you fulfill your nonprofit’s mission.