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[Guide] Gifts for Volunteers – What, When, and Why

gifts for volunteers

Volunteer recognition goes way beyond just thanking volunteers. Rather, it should be an ongoing initiative with the purpose of engaging volunteers and making them feel like a valued part of the team.

In this guide, we highlight some convincing reasons why your nonprofit should put improving volunteer recognition at the top of its to-do list. Also, we dive deeper into a topic that’s often a gray area for nonprofits: volunteer gifts.

When is it appropriate to give a volunteer a gift? What are some creative gift ideas for volunteers? Find out the answers to these questions and more.

Have a resource you’d like to add to the list? Tweet your ideas and helpful links to @VolunteerHub. We’ll retweet the article and mention your organization on Twitter.


Out-of-the-Ordinary Gifts for Volunteers
Looking for a unique way to thank your volunteers for the many ways in which they contribute to your organization? This user-generated list, maintained on the Energize, Inc. website, provides some pretty creative ideas for volunteer appreciation gifts.

14 Creative Ways to Thank Volunteers
An important part of keeping volunteers happy is making them feel appreciated. Whether it’s a simple thank you note or an actual gift, even the smallest of gestures can go a long way in cultivating lasting volunteer relationships. In need of some inspiration? Here are 14 ideas for thanking volunteers your organization should consider.

Inexpensive/Free Holiday Gifts for Volunteers
The holidays are a perfect opportunity to show your volunteers just how much you appreciate them. Here are some tips for finding affordable (and even free) holiday gifts for volunteers.

9 Ways to Say Thanks
Does your nonprofit feature a “Volunteer of the Month?” This can be a great way to recognize an outstanding volunteer and inspire others to get more involved. This article from The NonProfit Times highlights some other great ways to thank your volunteer corps.

5 Fun Gift Ideas Your Volunteers Will Love
Do we always need a reason to show volunteers some love? Shari Ilsen doesn’t think so. In her article on the VolunteerMatch blog, Ilsen highlights five fun volunteer gift ideas for any occasion.

Quick and Easy Thank-You Gifts for Classroom Volunteers
Any crafty folks out there? This article is for you! While the title of the article is geared toward classroom volunteers, these handmade gift ideas are perfect for volunteers of all kinds.

National Volunteer Week Recognition Ideas
Has your organization considered hosting a volunteer recognition event during National Volunteer Week? We put our heads together and came up with a list of budget-friendly ideas to make your next volunteer recognition event a memorable and special experience for everyone involved.

Ongoing and Informal Ways to Thank Volunteers
There are many different ways to say “Thanks.” This list from Energize, Inc.’s website highlights some unique ideas submitted by volunteer coordinators like yourself. The great part about these suggestions is that most of them would be very inexpensive to implement.

When & Why:

Save a Life, Win a Car! When Do Incentives to Volunteer Cross the Line?
Most volunteer-based organizations understand the importance of thanking volunteers and recognizing them for their hard work. Nonprofits who have a solid plan in place for doing so often see higher retention rates and have a happier, more dedicated volunteers corps. As this article by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc. points out, there is a fine line between thanking participants and incentivizing service. Ellis provides an interesting perspective on the question, “When do incentives to volunteers cross the line?”

Leveraging Your Volunteers’ Fullest Potential
Struggling to learn what motivates your volunteers? You’re not alone. The fact of the matter is there’s not a blanket answer to this question. Each individual volunteer has his/her own reasons for donating their time. What we do know is that volunteers are human, and it’s human nature to want to feel appreciated. If your nonprofit doesn’t have a SOP for recognizing volunteers, this article will hopefully change your mind.

Volunteer Recognition: Why Is It Important?
Many nonprofits hold an annual event where the sole purpose is to thank volunteers. While this is well and good, we should be recognizing the efforts of our volunteers more than just once a year. As this article puts it, “When volunteers feel appreciated and important, they are more likely to feel connected to the program and continue their involvement.”

Recognizing Online Volunteers
When should you recognize volunteers? What kinds of contributions should be recognized? Jayne Cravens of Coyote Communications answers these important questions and more in her article, “Recognizing Online Volunteers and Using the Internet to Honor ALL Volunteers.”

Why Rewards and Recognition Should Be In Line With Volunteer Motivations
Here’s a handy resource your nonprofit can use to better match its volunteer recognition efforts with the motivations of your volunteers.

Re-energizing Volunteer Recognition
Simply saying thank you doesn’t exactly classify as volunteer recognition. Rather, as this article from the Charity Village blog points out, volunteer recognition is “the deliberate and intentional ongoing way that we engage with our volunteers to reinforce that they are a valuable part of our organization…” Ready to breathe new life into your volunteer corps? Read these best practices for volunteer recognition.

When Recognition Isn’t Enough
Which is better: a less-than-genuine thank you or none at all? Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc. shares two personal accounts of when the recognition she received as a volunteer backfired. Read this article for some helpful tips your organization can follow to make your volunteer recognition efforts more personal (and meaningful).

Bookmark this page and check back often! As we come across new articles and resources relating to this topic, we will add them to the list.

Headshot of Christine Litch

About Christine Litch

Christine Litch has over a decade of experience working in the nonprofit industry, specializing in helping nonprofits do more with technology.

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