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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

10 strategies to show your appreciation to your volunteers

volunteer appreciation and retention

Volunteers play a very important role in the success of nonprofit organizations, and acknowledging their dedication and hard work not only elevates their spirits but is essential for their motivation and retention within the organization. Volunteer appreciation strategies can be divided into two groups:

  • Ongoing strategies, which are embedded in the organization's culture and are part of the day-to-day operations.
  • Periodic appreciation and recognition strategies, which are special gestures that celebrate and thank volunteers.

Ongoing appreciation and retention strategies for your nonprofit’s volunteers

Leadership support and recognition

It all starts with senior leadership setting the example of their support for the role of volunteers within the organization. They do this by speaking positively about volunteer efforts to achieve the organization's goals. When volunteer contributions are acknowledged at the highest levels of the organization, it will increase volunteer dedication and productivity and create a culture of appreciation and respect of volunteer efforts throughout the organization.

Clear vision of volunteer roles and responsibilities

Developing a vision that clearly outlines the role of volunteers within the organization will ensure that the work done by volunteers aligns with the organization’s goals. It is important for volunteers to see that the impact of their work is within the framework of the overall vision of the organization.

Volunteers who have clear roles and responsibilities are more empowered and have more ownership of their tasks and initiatives, and this has a direct impact on volunteer retention.

Feedback and involvement in decision-making

Giving volunteers the opportunity to share their feedback and involving them in some of the decision-making processes that directly involve their work shows that their insights are valuable to the organization’s growth, and this will enhance their sense of belonging and value. This could include feedback on the design and improvement of programs and services based on their frontline experience with beneficiaries, or to participate in recruitment of new volunteers.

Opportunities for leadership roles

Opportunities to take on leadership roles shows volunteers that the organization trusts in their capabilities. This strategy will not only help in volunteer retention but will make the organization more attractive to prospective individuals who seek more meaningful volunteer opportunities. Volunteers can be assigned leadership roles that match their skills, roles like:

  • “Trainer” or “Facilitator” where volunteers can lead training sessions for other volunteers or beneficiaries.
  • “Team leader” for leading groups of volunteers in organizations that have a large volunteer base.
  • “Community liaison” for representing the organization in community events.
  • “Response coordinator” to lead volunteer response teams for organizations that deal with emergencies or crises.
  • “Research lead” for volunteers with a background in research to oversee projects that involve gathering and analyzing data for strategies and other programs.

Opportunities for professional development

Providing opportunities to grow professionally through workshops, training sessions and mentorship programs makes the volunteer experience more fulfilling and engaging, and volunteers are more likely to stay within an organization that offers a pathway for growth and learning.

Regular communication on volunteer recognition

Maintaining regular internal communication in the newsletters, on the website and in staff meetings about volunteer efforts ensures that their contributions are visible to everyone within the organization. This promotes a culture of appreciation of the role volunteers play to achieve the organization's goals, and also increases volunteer support and acknowledgment from all levels of the organization.

Equipping volunteers for excellence

Providing volunteers with adequate resources needed for them to excel in their duties enhances their effectiveness and efficiency. Access to office supplies, equipment and adequate working space shows that the organization is committed to their success and satisfaction. Volunteers are more likely to continue with an organization that ensures they have everything they need to perform their duties well.  

These ongoing strategies ensure a steady stream of volunteer appreciation, but to create a more wholesome volunteer experience, organizations must also implement periodic appreciation strategies, to celebrate special milestones and achievements.  

Periodic volunteer appreciation strategies to implement

Host a volunteer appreciation event

An event like a party, dinner, or awards ceremony, bringing all volunteers and staff together serves as a formal setting to recognize, celebrate and publicly acknowledge the hard work and dedication of volunteers. Bringing staff and volunteers together reinforces the idea that volunteers are an important part of the organization’s family.

Spotlight achievements

Using the organization’s communication channels like newsletters, websites and social media to occasionally spotlight volunteer achievements like “volunteer of the month” will encourage volunteers to continue their involvement. This also serves as a recruitment tool for prospective volunteers because it shows a supportive environment where achievements are recognized and valued.

Milestone awards/tokens of gratitude

People naturally enjoy the gesture of gifts, and using this timeless principle of gift giving to recognize volunteer milestones is a tangible expression of gratitude.  Tokens of gratitude in the form of personalized mementos, gift cards, wellness packages or event tickets remind volunteers of their role in the organization’s success.

This dual strategy of periodic and ongoing volunteer appreciation and retention strategies enhances the volunteer experience and creates an environment that encourages continued engagement and dedication.

Image by Lillian Finley

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The Service Enterprise Initiative is a national program that provides training and accreditation to nonprofits that are committed to implementing exemplary volunteer management practices to achieve operational efficiency and greater social impact.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog