In volunteer engagement, we often talk about the importance of the three Rs – recruitment, retention and recognition, the pillars of a successful volunteer program. As we get geared up for National Volunteer Week, organizations are in the midst of the latter, planning their annual volunteer appreciation ceremony. We print our certificates of achievement and have our plaques ready for the volunteers who give their time, energy and passion to our causes.
But what do we do during the rest of the year to show our appreciation? After all, one of the reasons we often utilize volunteers in the first place is because time and resources are strapped. Having an appreciation plan in place is critical to retaining volunteers. A plan can be as straightforward as creating a list, outlining month by month how you plan to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them. Efforts can be as simple as a thank-you card or a certificate for having the most volunteer hours, coming from various members of your staff.
Remember though – part of your plan is more than showing appreciation. It’s recognizing your volunteers. Recognition is simply including your volunteers, finding small ways to tell them how important they are to the success of your organization. It’s giving volunteers a safe place to put their things, making sure they receive important memos, introducing them to visitors and including them as part of the decision-making process in your organization. Organizations are often guilty of treating volunteers like second-class citizens. We expect them to rise to the occasion whenever we need them (and they always do!), but we often fail to include them in the important day-to-day business of our nonprofits. After all, if we treat our volunteers like outsiders the rest of the year, how do we expect them to care when we go all-out for National Volunteer Week?
Take the time to create a monthly comprehensive recognition plan so regular volunteers feel appreciated and engaged year round. Remember, volunteers want to feel like they’re part of something. Let them.
KNN Communications Coordinator
Whitney Wilgus is the Communications Coordinator for the Kentucky Nonprofit Network. Prior to her work at KNN, she worked in volunteer management for four years. She currently serves as the president of the Central Kentucky Association of Volunteer Administrators.
Share with us. How does your organization regularly recognize volunteers? How will you recognize your volunteers during National Volunteer Week?