Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Show Your Volunteers Some Love

It's National Volunteer Week! To the 13.3 million  volunteers in Canada, we salute you.

From running hockey teams to fundraising for homeless shelters, to packing food at the food bank and organizing great community events, volunteers are all around us. They feed our children, keep our streets clean and safe and build stunning websites for social profits orgs.

So how do we give thanks for the people who really make our community what it is?

Volunteer recognition is an important part of the volunteer selection and retention process. Knowing your volunteer's reasons for giving their time is an important indicator to how you can say thanks.

Say Thank You - It's underrated. People like to feel appreciated and for most, a sincere thank you is enough.

Send a Card - Handwritten or at least hand signed, whenever possible.

Lunch - Who doesn't love free food? Invite your volunteers to a volunteer appreciation breakfast, a dessert night, afternoon tea or a barbecue to show your thanks. This event will also give you a great opportunity to highlight great achievements in the previous years campaign and to energize your team for the coming year.

Personalized Chocolate Bars - 2 years ago I was gifted a Hershey bar from an organization. They made personalized labels for all their volunteers and the Board of Directors wrapped all those chocolate bars while conducting a meeting. Talk about multi-tasking!

Service Medals - Recognize your volunteers yearly (monthly, weekly) but also make a big deal out of milestones. Many organizations hand out service medals (often keychains) acknowledging memorable dates and years of service.

Learning Opportunities - Year after year, I ask my own volunteers what they'd like as appreciation for a job well done. Typically, the first answer is almost always "A raise" (big jokers around here!) but next on the list is something to do. We've organized days at the museum (including spouses and family, of course), rented a movie theatre, had an expert come to us to teach container gardening and made arrangements to tour a local building that is rarely seen by outsiders.

Volunteers are a pretty easy-going, loving bunch. They appreciate you when you say a simple thank you and they appreciate you when you make a big hullabaloo with all the trimmings. The best gift you can give to someone who gives their time to you is to give some of yours back. While you think that signing your name to 50 cards is not that big of a deal, your volunteers are extremely touched that you took the time to personally sign their cards.

So go on, get out there and say thank you to some volunteers this week!

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