Think back to the first time you volunteered to help a nonprofit. Were you inspired to make a difference? Did you feel as though you were a part of a team working towards a greater cause?
April 10th marks the beginning of the 2016 National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week provides the opportunity for nonprofit organizations to connect with and show appreciation for their volunteers. Given their invaluable contributions, volunteers can truly be the heartbeat of an organization. They add compassion, commitment, love, and most importantly their time to a common cause. Let’s use this week to show volunteers sincere appreciation and in turn, make your mission stronger.
We often forget how far a simple “thank you” can go. Thanking your volunteers every chance you get can make an enormous impact. People are motivated by appreciation and validation. Creating a culture of gratitude with your team will encourage volunteers to give more of their time. Gratitude will ignite passion for your cause. Try one or all of the following to make your volunteers feel valued:
- Use a thank you message when they sign-up to volunteer.
- Send thank you emails after they have attended an event.
- Create a special event exclusively for volunteers.
- Send hand written thank you letters occasionally.
- Greet your volunteers with a friendly demeanor and a smile.
What drives your staff and volunteers? What encourages them to sign-up for events? Knowing how your volunteers think and why they want to be a part of your organization will give you the insight you need to recruit additional volunteers. This will also help you create different ways to show your existing volunteers appreciation. Find out what keeps them coming back to your organization.
Have conversations with your volunteers about their lives, get to know them on a personal level. Think about your volunteer’s motivation for giving their time when asking questions. These conversations can create a bond with the volunteer. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do they have a special connection with your cause?
- Do they enjoy specific events?
- Do specific times work best for them?
- Can they share a fond memory of a time they volunteered with your organization?
Do you have a vision of your perfect volunteer? If so, why not cultivate that within the volunteers you already have? Helping to build confidence in your volunteers is a great way to make them feel valued. By acquiring new skills and giving them opportunities to use these newly acquired skills, you are building confidence within them.
We all know what it feels like to start something new. It can be scary and intimidating. However, if they are feeling personal growth, they will want to continue to come back and give more of their time.
Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture when you are only working at a few events a year. Being authentic and allowing the volunteers to see the progress of the team is extremely valuable. Showing them what your organization was able to accomplish with their help encourages them to continue to volunteer.
They want to see results from these efforts just as much as you do. Help them see that they are making a difference and the value they add to your mission. By offering transparency, you create a vision for the team of volunteers. They understand where you are trying to go (your goal) and how they can help you get there (your plan).
Building a strong environment for your team and organization will encourage volunteers to give their time. Gratitude, communication, cultivation, and encouragement are just a few ways to inspire your volunteers. Think outside the box to create your own ways to show them appreciation. Use this week as a platform to inspire your volunteers and to catapult your mission to the next level.