Four Things Every Leader Should Do to Sustain the Engagement of Volunteers

Volunteers arrive to serve, filled with passion and excitement . . . but what got them there at the outset, may not be what brings them back.  That initial passion may evolve over time, or it may even wane.  The good news is, it doesn’t have to.  Leaders can make a difference. 

Leaders of volunteers can take a number of proactive steps to sustain the engagement of those who choose to serve through their organization.  Doing so requires a bit of knowledge, a bit of discipline, and a lot of desire–the desire to continue to feed the passion-fires of volunteers.

A simple set of guiding words will help leaders of volunteers achieve this mission.  Here goes:

Prepare:  Equip the Volunteer with Knowledge and Tools

Many organizations create role descriptions that help volunteers to quickly become familiar with their performance expectations.  These can be posted on a website, so volunteers may access the options in advance, giving them a clearer idea of which of the role opportunities may best align with their talents and gifts. 

A “one sheet” version can also be printed, allowing a volunteer to review the requirements on site.  This “one sheet” role description may include logistical sections such as physical requirements, skills and specific tasks.  This tool could also include descriptors such as, “The kind of person who enjoys doing X will often find Y to be enjoyable.”  These phrases help the volunteer to self-assess, and align themselves to a role that will best meet their interests.             

Bottom line is, preparing a volunteer from the beginning of their time of service hastens the journey from vulnerable, new volunteer to competent, confident, returning volunteer.   

Share:  Guide the Volunteer in Alignment with the Vision

One of the most important objectives for a leader of volunteers to reach is to connect every individual volunteer’s time and talents with the vision and mission of the organization.  This is no small task.  Communication is a big part of how this alignment is accomplished. 

Many volunteer-supported organizations use media, like a video or e-Learning module, that tells the story of the difference it makes.  Media content with an emotional message can help volunteers to visualize how their work makes an impact. 

Once this connection is initially made, the leader must continue to reinforce it.  How?  With two-way communication.  By asking lots of open-ended questions, and allowing others to provide input on choices and decisions, whenever possible, volunteers feel like they are more than “free labor.”  They instead feel they are a meaningful part of shaping the future.       

Be There:  Support the Volunteer in Achieving Service Success

Leaders of volunteers may support volunteers in many significant ways just through their sheer presence.  One simple, and often overlooked task, is offering feedback to volunteers on their performance. 

Most of us desireto know how we are doing in our work.  Words of affirmation from a leader can be powerful.  Words of gentle guidance and redirection can also increase the volunteer’s self-esteem and sense of contribution.  Leaders must be present among their volunteers, ready to “catch them in the act” of doing something great.  When they see it, say it! 

The timely “I noticed that . . .” message woven into the service day can leave a profound impact on the engagement level of a volunteer.  Noticing others’ work matters.  For a volunteer, knowing their work is noticed by the others, matters.     

Care:  Inspire the Volunteer by Touching Their Heart

Leaders of volunteers must consider a simple truth when it comes to recognizing others’ performance:  one size does not fit all.  Each volunteer has a unique set of preferences for being recognized.  These preferred ways of receiving recognition are intimately connected with the intrinsic drivers that compel the volunteer to serve in the first place.

Wow, that sounds complex.  And, yes, it can be.  So, let’s break this down to a simpler approach.  First, do not throw out a current recognition program, if one is in place.  Just acknowledge its limitations.  Any program will only meet some desires for appreciation, some of the time.

Second, to gain insight on what will have meaning to an individual, just ask them.  Most of us are in tune with our likes and preferences in this area . . . or at least what we do not like.  Then, tailor recognition to the preferred style of the recipient.  A heartfelt thank you may be all that person wanted, and needed—no coffee mug or certificate required.    

When leaders of volunteers can prepare, share, be there and care for those in their charge, only then can the passion-fires of volunteers continue to be fed.  With the right mix of knowledge, discipline and desire, leaders can sustain the passions of volunteers for many years of meaningful service.

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How to Make Volunteering a Way of Life


If you’re like me, you’ll find that many people struggle with how to volunteer.  There are many opportunities to serve lots of different organizations, so it can seem daunting for someone who wants to “get involved.”  Depending on the type of organization you volunteer with, I’ve found at least one way to work through this – just make it part of your everyday life. As an example, the only volunteering time I spend is with the same Iraqi family every week.  They relocated here about a year ago with very little English and a limited understanding of our culture.  If I simply allotted a number of hours per week to teach them English or help them apply for jobs, that would be good, but it wouldn’t really make serving that family an integral part of my life.  It would simply be a part of my weekly routine.  Now, I still do that, because in many ways, it’s important to have that routine.  BUT, the thing that makes it all gel is that I don’t separate my service to this family from my everyday life. For example – a few months back, I went with some friends to a vineyard, and invited one of the Iraqi family members I work with.  He is my age, his English is vastly improved, and he’s just generally a fun guy.  We had a blast with him and my friends!  Now, anytime I’m doing something that makes sense to invite them to, I do.  Not out of a sense of obligation, but because I want to.  It’s fun for everyone – me, my friends, and the family.

The best way to “get involved” is not only to find one cause that has meaning for you, but to find a cause that will easily flow through many other aspects of your life.  Unfortunately, we (and I say we because I’ve done this several times…) oftentimes dedicate ourselves to causes that are difficult to weave through other areas of our lives.  Changing this will change the way we serve our communities.

What does the above story mean for us as volunteer coordinators?  It means that the interview and getting to know prospective volunteers, their skills, and their motivations is absolutely critical because it allows you to weave your opportunities in with the daily lives of your volunteers.  It is for this reason that we at Volunteermark place such a tremendous emphasis on guiding volunteers through the process of creating a profile.  This is a required process for anyone signing on to volunteer through us – and for our coordinators, it provides an incredibly valuable window into the background of a prospective volunteer.  Without this information, how can you hope to engage the existing skills of prospective volunteers??  The answer is, you cannot.  So you have to develop a process for getting to know the unique skills, background, and lifestyle that EACH volunteer brings to the table – only then will you be able to engage them in a way that causes volunteerism to impact their daily life.

As always – I want to have a discussion around this – so I’ll leave you with a few questions for the answering in the comment box right below (don’t worry, just answering one question is great! 🙂 – what systems do you have in place for getting to know your volunteers?  How do you tailor volunteer opportunities to match the professional background of your volunteers?  How can we, as coordinators, commit ourselves to making volunteering a part of everyday life for our communities?

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The tool that every volunteer coordinator needs

How often has this happened to you – you interview a prospective volunteer, love their background, love what they offer, and love what they could bring to your movement, but you never hear from them beyond the initial interview? 

If this has happened to you (and I’m sure it has 🙂 I have a tool that you must have to nip ‘volunteer-fade’ in the bud.  See, after a prospective volunteer leaves your office, several questions are spinning through his/her head: will I really make a difference here with limited time?  How can I possibly help the people they’re serving?  Will I be valued? 

If you let these questions blossom into doubts, you’ve lost that volunteer, so the key is to proactively answer these questions for your prospective volunteer before that happens.  The best way to do this is with a follow up letter that addresses these concerns.  When used correctly, this strategy will dramatically reduce volunteer disappearance.  Here’s an example of a letter I’ve used effectively in the past:

Hi Michael,

I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with me today about the family partner program.  I truly believe your background, experiences, and heart for our families would be a tremendous asset to our work.  As you consider volunteering with us, it will be normal for you to wonder about the difference you can make with ‘limited’ time.  If those thoughts cross your mind, don’t worry!  Even those of us at this full-time ask those questions!  So, I have a little writing that I’d liketo share with you – it’s something I have hanging on my wall where it serves as a daily reminder for why I do what I do.  I hope that it will help ease any doubts you may have:

-If you’ve changed one life, you’ve changed the world.  I know the world faces massive challenges, and they can seem overwhelming, but the fact is – if you can change the trajectory of just one life, you’ve changed the trajectory of the world.  Remember this the next time you think the world is beyond saving.

-It’s more about consistency than the amount of time.  In social work, you will often feel like there is not enough time to solve all the world’s problems – and there isn’t!  So, it’s a good thing that consistency is what really matters.  As you serve people, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you can only devote 1 hour per week to them, but it DOES matter that you are consistent, reliable, and dependable. 

-Focus on what you’re best at.  You need to be sure that, in every way possible, you are seeking to serve others in your areas of strength.  Far too many change agents get burned out because they try to be all things to all people – don’t do this.  Know what you excel at, and serve the world in those areas.

-Keep things right with yourself, so that you can be right for others.  If you get burned out by trying to be all things to all people, you’ll be no things to no people.    

-Keep it Real.  I know at times, it may appear that the struggles our families face are insurmountable – but this is a marathon we’re in, not a sprint.  Be sure to laugh along the way, to sing, to cry, dance randomly, and never take yourself too seriously.  The people you serve will love you for this.

Thanks for reading Michael – I do hope that you will decide to join us as we work to change the world for the families we serve. 

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Will work for purpose

So you’re leading an organization whose lifeblood is volunteers – but how do you go about recruiting and retaining individuals who are just as sold out on your mission as you?  The truth is – those of us in cause based work have a tremendous advantage: our work has purpose, and most people don’t feel they have purpose at their day jobs.

It is a sad fact in our society that the vast majority of people are dissatisfied with their work – check out this article to see some clear examples of disgruntled and disaffected employees.   But why do people dislike their work?  Well, survey after survey has actually shown that employees want purpose above all other benefits (check this article for some info on that).  Think about that – an employee’s greatest pain point at work is that they do not feel their work has meaning – thus, our greatest advantage as volunteer recruiters lies in providing purpose.  Here are 5 important strategies you should implement today to show potential volunteers (most of whom are employees somewhere!) that they will work for purpose:  

1.) Show them how they will become part of something larger than themselves.  While companies bring people together to accomplish larger goals, they often fail to share their stories in a way that employees feel connected to their work.  We at non-profits have incredible stories, produce lasting change, and serve the underserved.  Volunteers need to be dunked in these ideals at every turn.

2.) Have a Story.  You can’t be in non-profit work without having a story about how your work changed a life.  Share that!  Find a way to share that story with everyone who walks through your door and to use it in recruiting efforts at local businesses.  People hunger to become part of a purposeful story.  Do not miss your chance to show them how your organization is their answer.

3.) Engage volunteers in a way that uses their professional skills.  In this article I spoke about how businesses were creating great relationships with non-profits by donating expertise – but companies won’t always beat a path to your door – oftentimes you must actively seek employees who have the skillset you need.  For example, Habitat for Humanity frequently recruits out of the banking industry for volunteers to serve families as financial coaches.  This accomplishes two things: it engages a specialized skillset and offers far more purpose than a traditional banking role.

4.) Ask Local Businesses about offering ‘Paid Volunteer Time’.  Employers are increasingly offering paid time off to their employees for the purpose of volunteering for non-profit causes.  This can be an incredible way to recruit volunteers who come for one project, fall in love with your story, and stay on.  But have you asked local businesses about offering this?  If not, give it a try – you’ll be surprised at how receptive they are to getting their employees engaged in meaningful work.

5.) Focus on Purpose.  There is little doubt that we are moving into a ‘Purpose Economy’ (see this site) Millenials are making up one of the largest chunks of the workforce, and they value purpose in life above all else.  Thus, you must work every day to make your volunteers feel they are engaged in purposeful work.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be some busy work – but it does mean that you must use the power of your story to make volunteers feel engaged with your mission.   

Employees in the U.S. hunger for purpose in their work – this has led to one of the greatest recruiting opportunities in a generation.  Please comment below by sharing: what recruitment efforts have you used that target employees who lack meaning in their day jobs?

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Science of motivating volunteers

Recap from June’s Nonprofit Neighbors discussion on inspiring others.

By: Anna Spady, — June 6, 2014

“Creating a home away from home for families with children living with life-threatening illnesses.”

That is the heart cry of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, where this month’s Nonprofit Neighbors forum was held on Wednesday.

It’s a charity that’s near and dear to my own heart, because it was my youngest cousin’s ‘home away from home’ when she spent far too much of her early childhood in intensive care. My family raved about what it meant to not have to worry about hotel fees and getting to end their dark days in an inviting place.

Thus, it was lovely to meet in such a heartwarming place and to see several news faces at our monthly meeting. Every person that attendsNPN holds an inspiring story of how the people of Kansas City are working to change the lives of those who need it most.

In front of that audience, it was my privilege to facilitate this week’s discussion, especially since it focused on one of my pet topics — the science behind motivation. The topic was based on a blog post I recently wrote for Charity Village, which will be posted on June 11, and presents a volunteer-focused spin off a great lecture by Daniel Pink who forever changed my perspective on motivation.

A boiled-down version of the lecture is this:

1. Ownership is motivating

When you invite someone to have a stake in something, either by asking their opinion or offering them a choice, you immediately make them invested. One simple application suggested during discussion was a menu of volunteer opportunities.

Give volunteers the opportunity to make their scheduling flexible. We have an ‘a-la-carte’ listing for our volunteer opportunities, that don’t require a long-term commitment so people can help whenever they want.

2. Mastery is motivating

People are driven to mastery. We want to do more than just “get through” life, we want to conquer and contribute. Therefore, volunteer managers need to get to know their volunteers so they can match drive with needs. An easy way to do this is skill-based volunteering, as one attendee pointed out.

We do volunteer interviews, the same way we do job interviews. We want to get an understanding of their skills and what they bring to the table so we know where to place them.

3. Purpose is motivating

The majority of people involved with nonprofits due so because they deeply believe in something. Finding a great cause isn’t hard, believing we’re really making a difference is. Helping volunteers apply meaning isn’t a new a goal, but it’s exactly what nonprofits should refocus on. Do so by explaining what their actions achieve, what it buys/acquires and what it changes.

Explain to your volunteers what their actions do. They think they are just folding clothes or cleaning. But what they’re really doing is giving children a beautiful and safe home to live in. We motivate by making our progress reports meaning focused.

Thank you all for coming out and sharing your wisdom. If you couldn’t make it or have never been, I hope to see you soon and hear your story next month.

Have a topic you’d like to see a blog post on? Want to feature your organization in the next Service Spotlight? Email me at
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Lessons from volunteer manager’s past

Advice from nonprofit advisor Susie Haake on being a quality volunteer manager.

Written by: Anna Spady,

I should have brought a bowl of rice, incense or some sort of gift as I stared at Susie Haake. The days when pilgrims would bring offerings to the sage in exchange for wisdom wouldn’t shake out of my head.

I, the lowly pilgrim, had invited Haake to coffee because I had learned at a recent Nonprofit Neighbors meeting of her decade long work as a volunteer manager.

A quick glance into her resume showed me she had volunteered for more than 30 organizations, had been a volunteer manager for a major Kansas City corporation and still advised local nonprofits and organizations such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Currently, Haake is a pro bono nonprofit management advisor and accessibility consultant.

Needles to say, by the time we were drinking our coffee, I was intimidated. I was but a lowly devotee on a search for wisdom. My quest? What not to do as a volunteer manager.

AS: What’s the biggest mistake a volunteer manager can make?

SH: Not thinking strategically. Volunteer managers spend all their time putting out fires, yet they also need to take time to look at the programs’ vision and mission and strategize how to accomplish them. You need to sit back and ask yourself: In addition to my daily work activities, what can I do today that will make a difference tomorrow, next month and next year? I usually did my strategic thinking between 5-7 p.m.

AS: What should the main goal of a volunteer manager be?

SH: One — recruit, train and celebrate volunteers who have the expertise and passion to further the mission of the organization. Two — be the connector, the match-maker. Get to know people, find out what they love to do and find them a place to do it.

AS: What skills do you need to be a good volunteer manager?

SH: You have to be a good manager and wear many hats. You’re a marketer, HR director, project manager and a social worker, all in one day.

AS: What should be priorities for volunteer managers?

SH: Good systems. If you don’t have a great procedural manual, borrow someone else’s. If you have to write it yourself, do it. Make sure you have personnel policies, like how to fire a volunteer, so that when a situation comes up there’s a standard procedure.

AS: Thoughts on volunteer management software?

SH: Absolutely need it. But you also have to have actual conversations with people. If you’re a larger nonprofit and don’t have a volunteer management system, then write a grant to purchase one.

AS: How do you find the right volunteers?

SH: Recruit in the neighborhood of the organization, in nearby churches and synagogues and communitycenters. Ask current volunteers and board members to help you in your recruitment. But remember, your volunteers must have a passion to further the mission of the organization. Once you have potential volunteers, get to know them. The most common question I hear is: ‘I know I want to volunteer, I just don’t know what I want to do.’

  1. First, determine the potential volunteer’s passions. Give them an interest survey. Ask them: ‘When you read news articles, what tugs at your heart strings? What moves you?’
  2. Find out where they live, where they might fit into the volunteering community.
  3. Ask them if they’re married, if they have kids. If they have a family, involve them. It’s often two for the price of one.
  4. Make it easy. Realize people don’t have time to work, raise a family and a volunteer.

AS: How does one increase retention?

SH: Celebrate success. When a new volunteer comes in, celebrate! Get to know them. Celebrate success in any place that volunteers touch. Choose to focus on people over tasks, every time.

AS: How do you make volunteers who do mundane tasks feel valued?

SH: Remind them what they contribute. Create an atmosphere of value and gratitude. Make people feel needed.

AS: What would tell a volunteer manager who’s struggling?

SH: If you are overwhelmed, find someone to help you. Create a volunteer council, find advisors. Partner with people.

AS: Personally, whats your favorite moment?  

SH: During my time at Hallmark, we’d always held an annual breakfast to celebrate the impact our employees made in our community. It was a brief recap of the years accomplishments and Mr. Hall would always speak to share his appreciation. The employees seemed to really appreciate the event.

AS: If you could go back in time to when you were first hired as a volunteer manager, what would you tell yourself?

SH: It’s going to be harder than you thought. But you’re going to meet some of the most wonderful, caring people in the world.

Want to learn from the best? Got a question you need answered? Let us know at

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Making time for time management

Five secrets from productive people to increase efficiency.

I have never been a volunteer manager, but I love to talk shop with them because we understand one another’s worlds.

Their job, like mine as a project manager, is to be the ultimate mom. Part liaison, part strategy, more than a little administration and lots of list making. You are almost always on call, constantly interrupted and usually spinning a dozen plates at one time. At best, these roles are challenging and exciting. At worst, they are harried and harrowing.

One of my solutions to deal with all this responsibility has been to befriend productive people and demand that they impart to me their wise ways. I also adopted the habit of hiding out in what I call my “cone of silence” chair, a short period of time where I can quietly organize my thoughts and tasks.

In that vein, here is some advice from five different types of productive people on how best to manage your time while dealing with the myriad of problems that face a nonprofit daily.

1. The Project Manager, Jeff Glasco/Front Flip general manager
Jeff has done a little bit of everything in the business world, from product and project management to business development to his current gig as the general manager of Front Flip.

Your job as a manager is to walk into a room full of chaos, and ask the question: if nothing else gets done today, what has to happen?

Prioritize your tasks and get to work, starting at the top.

2. The Writer, Christine Taylor-Butler/author
Christine is an accomplished writer who has written both educational and fictional children books, as well as everything in-between.

Be selfish about your time. You can’t believe that you can create at any time. Figure out when you are most productive and motivated, your golden hour, and fight like crazy to keep it.

I have learned that I can’t plan, strategize, blog or brainstorm at any hour of the day. Therefore, when you have your golden hour, turn off your phone, put on headphones and be alone with your work.

3. The Systems Geek, prefers anonymity
Our anonymous tipper is a tech extraordinaire with experience in operational management and computer programming.

Your priorities are defined by what you’re not going to get done in order to do them.

A former boss of mine taught me to turn my to-do list into a spreadsheet. First step is to enter all tasks, then rate how long I thought they would take. Follow that by listing who they were contingent on, assign due dates and finally prioritize and schedule a review. In my initial ignorance, I thought the exercise tedious and unnecessary. I now know I couldn’t have been more wrong. You will too.

4. The Coffee Shop Manager, Daniel Paris/Starbucks store manager
I worked for Daniel in the second busiest Starbucks in the state of Texas. The pace was always maniac, as we served a clientele of I-35 bikers, truck drivers plus Dallas and Austin commuters.

Something will always be left undone. Accept it and figure out a something that you can live with.

A little realism goes a long way.

5. The Mother, Lisa Spady/my mom
She is the smartest person in the whole world.

Whatever you do daily dominates.

I’m relearning this at my own cost, as I make a feeble attempt to get in shape. Whatever you choose to do, do it the best you can. The best advice I’ve received, which was echoed from a myriad of people, has been to be intentional. Don’t just react. Start your day early, with a realistic list and stick to the priorities.

You can lose your life putting out fires. But 10 minutes in a cone of silence chair could make all the difference.

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Put meaning in volunteering

I was reading a great blog post by Donald Miller the other day about making ordinary life more meaningful. Actually, it made me question my own volunteer experiences.

My volunteering has almost always been comprised of fairly mundane tasks: data entry, cleaning, watching children, etc. Yet some experiences have felt inexplicably more meaningful than others. Some days I went home wondering why I bothered while others I found myself smiling on the drive home, feeling like I had been part of something amazing.

Why? The tasks didn’t necessarily change, why did my sense of experience?  The two steps below will help any nonprofit answer that highly-held volunteer question.

Step 1: Ask what do volunteers want?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was most satisfied when my core motivators had been met. Motivation is what drives us, moves us and is how we get our kicks. I’ve found some great resources, brilliant books and TED talks, but my bottom line conclusion is this:

Degree of meaning perceived is directly correlated to motivational factors.

In other words, an experience will feel meaningful to me to the extent that it hits my motivational sweet spot, if it plays to my interests or values.

Kathy Martinson, Senior Director of Community Engagement at United Way of Dane County, created a fantastic volunteer motivational toolbox including great motivational assessments and a volunteer engagement checklist. These resources center on McClelland’s three types of social motivators:

1. Achievement
2. Influence
3. Affiliation (Connection)

Bottom line: it’s worth figuring out what motivates the people you enlist. As profoundly simple as it is, when you figure out what motivates people, you figure how to motivate them.

Step 2: Maximize the Experience

  • Volunteering needs to be easy Nothing dilutes a meaningful experience more than unnecessary frustrations and miscommunications. There are several practical ways to avoid hassle. Case in point, it was volunteer frustration that spurred VolunteerMark’s creation. Use management software to take care of the comprehensive details in regards to volunteer scheduling, communicating and reporting.
  • Customize the Experience Help your volunteers tailor their service according to their interests and skills. Implement interest-cause-match software or utilize old-school interest inventory. The goal is to put your volunteers where they want to be.
  • Consider Skills-Based Volunteering Traditional volunteer recruiting is like throwing out a grenade, the focus is quantity not quality. Skills-based recruiting is like hunting with a sniper rifle — specific targets. Volunteers are asked to donate their specific expertise rather than generic service. It’s a trend especially popular with Baby Boomers, who believe that sharing honed skills is a lot more meaningful than feeling like an intern asked to make coffee.

It’s easy to say that people don’t volunteer because they just don’t care anymore.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” psychologist Viktor Frankl said.

It’s a lot harder to admit that people just might not know where to find meaning. Our job, as nonprofits and NGOs, is simply to extend an invitation.

– Written by Anna Spady

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How to Say Thank you With a Pineapple

Most of us say thank you for common courtesies like holding the elevator and passing the salt. But a thank you can mean much more.

Lance Armstrong sent his space suit engineering team a thank you for keeping him “safe on the moon,” while Audrey Hepburn wrote her composer thanking him for making “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” a real film.

Thanking volunteers is something we know we should do, but it’s easy to put it off because figuring out how is too overwhelming or ideas too trite.

But it’s possible and more importantly — vital. To start, showing gratitude tells people that what they do really matters. Secondly, if you want someone to repeat an action, you must reinforce it. This concept was repeatedly hammered into me during my Psych undergrad education. From Pavlov’s dogs to thank you notes to presents, it’s all the same.

Thus, here are some ways to give a great thank you.

  • Be Authentic Bottom line, we all value what is personal and authentic. Don’t automate. The ultimate thank you fail is anything automatic so just avoid it at all costs.
  • Stay Specific Why are you grateful? What do a volunteers’ efforts accomplish? Example being “…because you volunteered, we are able to care for 20 more animals.” And don’t forget, old-fashioned handwritten thank you letters still go a long way.
  • Make it Meaningful This post was actually written in response to a tip we received from a subscriber. “Volunteers prefer a thank you speech from our president to any other kind of rewarding event (dinner, special event only for volunteers, etc).” Show them you care.
  • Surprise and Delight In marketing classes, they teach you that your job is to surprise and delight your consumers, which will bring them back for more. Case in point, the best thank you’s I’ve ever received: “Wilma the Pineapple,” funny phonetic nameplates and a flower-shaped Star Chart made of sticky notes listing my accomplishments.

In that regard, here are a few creative forms of thanking volunteers.

  1. Gage happiness by buying lunch Former volunteer manager Amber Cooney once said, “I often use this opportunity as a chance to gauge the volunteer’s happiness within the organization and to see if they are in the right niche within the nonprofit.” Here are few more of her great tips.
  2. Make it worth their while Gift cards and coupons are nothing new, but acquiring them for free or at least cheap is laborious. Luckily, one platform does the work for you. SwapServe matches nonprofits that need manpower with businesses willing to pledge reward gifts. Other organizations additionally let volunteers earn rewards like a trip to Disney World directly.
  3. Trade your ticket Another wonderful Cooney suggestion. Offer families that can’t afford to pay minor traffic violation tickets a chance to volunteer for you instead.

I recently tried to explain to a child why saying thank you was important. Yet, my lecture on politeness was met with a blank stare. Finally I told him that thank you means that what someone does is important to you, that what they do makes you happy.

And who wouldn’t want to hear that?

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