April is National Volunteer Month! Yes, you heard that right: there is a whole month dedicated to honoring volunteers across the country. Not only does the month commemorate the selfless efforts of so many people already volunteering, but encourages others to get out of their comfort zone and take action in bettering their communities.
Most nonprofits interact with volunteers at least a few times a year, whether that’s recruiting dozens for a big fundraiser, or just one to help out with your day-to-day duties. Volunteers come to you with the desire to help out (for free!) and that’s a pretty cool thing that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Though you should try to recognize them year-round, here are four ways you can thank your volunteers this month specifically.
Don’t treat volunteers only as tools to help you execute your mission—treat them like an extension of your staff. Get to know the people who are giving up their time to be with you. Ask them about why they believe in your mission and try to form a real, human connection. Asking for feedback is another great way to show them that you respect their opinion. Send out a survey that poses questions of what they like about volunteering with you, what they think could change and what keeps them coming back.
Show off your awesome volunteers! Spotlight a group or individual on social media, on your website or in your newsletters. Show the world the cool things they’re doing and how they’re acting out your mission. Donors will see that you’re making real moves to cause change in your community, and volunteers will get excited about their 15 minutes of fame. A great public display of affection for your volunteers is a win-win for everyone.
When volunteers give you their time, that’s time they’re taking away from their jobs, personal lives and families. While it’s really great that they’re choosing to spend their free time with you, it wouldn’t hurt to remind them that you appreciate their decision to do so. Give them tickets to a show they can go to with their partner, or a gift card to a restaurant their family will love. If money is tight, give them a handwritten thank you letter or an extra day off to catch up on work.
Keep a calendar of volunteers’ birthdays and send them a card to let you know you’re thinking about them. Take note of the skills they presented on their resumes and then remember those when assigning them to tasks. If you have a kickass graphic designer volunteering to be part of your team, don’t assign them a door-to-door fundraising job. Letting them utilize their skills will show that you genuinely recognize their talents (it will make them feel good, too!).
For more ideas on volunteer recognition, recruitment and retainment, check out our Volunteer Management 101 course at Nonprofit Hub University. Volunteers are essential for nonprofits, especially in their beginning stages. But no matter what stage of the volunteer management process you’re in, we’re here to help answer some of the questions you may have.
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