“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James
Being grateful for a kind word, an act of kindness, or a recipient of service is one thing. Expressing gratitude to the messenger, Samaritan, or volunteer is certainly another. While volunteers make a difference in the lives of others, recipients can make a difference in the lives of the volunteer simply by saying “Thank You.” I have learned to never underestimate the power of gratitude.
One of the most powerful volunteer retention tools is gratitude. While the intrinsic value of impacting the lives of others is important, this benefit is only maximized by the sincere, expressed, demonstration of gratitude. Expressions of gratitude might include saying “Thank you,” during the volunteer activity, providing lunch or snacks, sending a handwritten note after the activity, recognizing volunteers at a special event, or other similar action.
However, showing gratitude begins with providing a rewarding volunteer activity. Appreciating a volunteer includes recognizing that their time is valuable and could just as easily been spent with another organization or relaxing with a daiquiri on the beach. Ensuring that eager hands are not idle is imperative. You never want your volunteers to be without a value-added task. All volunteer work should be of great value directly related to the project or organizational mission. If this is not clear, the value should be expressed to the volunteer so that he/she knows how they are making a difference.
While working for a government agency, I did not have a significant budget for volunteer recognition. I had thousands of volunteers, so, I had to be creative. My volunteer projects always included some type of food, often donated, whether it was breakfast burritos, pizza, hot chocolate, or snacks. Project introductions included thanking volunteers for coming and a detailed description of how their service specifically made a difference to those we were assisting. I continuously checked in with volunteers, thanked them for their service, and asked if there was anything they needed. At the end of the project, I again thanked volunteers and reiterated what value their service added to our recipients and to the organization overall. Post project, I sent thank you letters to each individual volunteer and group, including a memento specific to their group, and detailed their work in our newsletter. Several of my volunteers were later recipients of awards from the Mayor of our city and the Governor of California.
Saying “Thank You,” is not enough. Demonstrating gratitude through the volunteer activity and understanding of value added through the work, as well as our words and actions is invaluable. When you do this effectively, many volunteers will thank YOU for the opportunity to make a difference through your organization and return again to join in the work.
How do you show gratitude to your volunteers? Leave a comment. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!