Any non-profit knows how valuable volunteers are. They donate their time and skills to help further your organization’s mission and they deserve recognition for that all year-round, not just at the holidays!

how to thank your volunteers

Whether your organization has just held an event that your volunteers were a huge help with or you’ve had a few volunteers go above and beyond, it’s always a good time to say thanks. You can also make it a point to observe National Volunteer Week and Volunteer Recognition Day, both held in April each year.

Since non-profits are often on a tight budget, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to show your appreciation. Here are our top 13 ways to thank your volunteers and let them know they’re a treasured part of your institution.

Free Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Give Shoutouts

Take a minute to give your volunteers a shoutout in a newsletter, your blog, and/or on social media. It doesn’t matter if you feature a new volunteer every month or highlight the excellent work done by all of your volunteers, they’ll be excited to see their efforts recognized and shared with the world.

Invite Them

A big part of showing appreciation is making your volunteers feel like they’re part of the team. When it’s appropriate, take time to invite them to parties and celebrations in your organization. When they get the invite, they’ll know they’re a valued part of the group.

Recommend Volunteers to Prospective Employers

Some volunteers may be working with your organization to gain experience to further their career. If you know that’s the case, a recommendation to someone in your network will mean a lot. It may even change their life!

Provide Letters of Reference

Similar to recommending a volunteer for a job, providing a letter of reference for something like a job interview or college/graduate school application shows that you recognize their contributions and appreciate them so much that you’re willing to take the time to help them out.

Ask For Their Opinions and Advice

It’s not enough to just ask, you have to listen! Show them you value their work and their opinions by asking for their input. Volunteers are part of your organization’s team and often, they’re on the front lines. They likely have insight that will help you better plan and execute programs, events, or even day-to-day operations.

Let Them Know Their Impact

Most people volunteer because they want to make a difference in the world. Let them know the impact their time and effort has had on your organization and the people you serve. They’ll feel great knowing exactly how their work is effecting others.

Free Admission

When people volunteer to work special events like races, festivals, and exhibit openings, giving them free admission to the event is a great way to show you appreciate them. They’ll love being able to take part in the festivities – free of charge! – instead of just working them.

Low-Cost Volunteer Recognition Ideas

Feed Them

As the saying goes, the way to the heart is through the stomach. Whether you decide to host a volunteer luncheon, dinner party, or potluck or just provide snacks and drinks while they work, providing food is always a great way to show appreciation.

Hold an Awards Night

To really shine the spotlight on your volunteers, an awards night is in order. Hosting an event dedicated to them is sure to make them feel appreciated. Award ideas: youngest volunteer, longest-serving volunteer, the one that put in the most hours over the past year, your weekend warriors…the list goes on!

Send a Handwritten Card or Letter of Thanks

In a digital world, handwritten cards go a long way. The fact that you took the time to pick up (or make!) a card, write a heartfelt message, and mail it is sure to warm anyone’s heart. You can certainly send a thank you card now and then, but it’s also a great idea to send a card on their birthday and volunteer anniversary.

Team Shirts

There’s a reason sports teams wear uniforms: when people are wearing the same thing, they feel unified. Getting your volunteers matching shirts (or other articles of clothing like vests or hats) will help them feel more united and dedicated to the organization.

Small Tokens of Appreciation

A small gift now and then is a great way to show how much you care! Gift cards in small increments like $5 or $10 are great. You can even keep a few in your office to hand out when you feel like a volunteer has gone above and beyond! Just don’t go overboard with gifts.

DIY Gifts

Baked goods are always a great idea and if you’re feeling crafty, you can make small treats for your volunteers. Pinterest is full of free printables and ideas for easy volunteer appreciation gifts. Get other employees in on the crafting and turn it into a team building activity!

Giving volunteers their due isn’t just important because it’s nice, it’s vital for the overall health of your volunteer program. Showing appreciation will help improve volunteer retention, increase participation, and help with recruiting new volunteers. So, how do you show your volunteers you care?