Rewarding volunteers can be gratifying and valuable without breaking the budget. Here are 5 budget-friendly ideas for volunteer recognition.

Maximizing volunteer productivity is one of the most researched nonprofit topics. In fact, according to America’s Charities, 69% of volunteers expect volunteer opportunities to have a defined scope and expected results.

Organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit) spend a lot of money each year to try to boost productivity levels. However, time and time again, studies have shown that one of the most fundamental ways to improve productivity is merely showing appreciation.

Creating an encouraging reward system that recognizes volunteers who work hard fosters a positive atmosphere within a volunteer program, leading to increased productivity.

Creative and inspiring volunteer recognition programs don’t have to be super expensive. There are a lot of ways you can recognize your volunteers without spending a fortune. We’ve narrowed down the top five ideas for volunteer recognition below.

Say thank you

It’s only a small thing, but saying thank you can make a huge difference. Many volunteers don’t believe their contribution is seen, so a simple thank you note can be hugely motivational. Make it more personal sending them a handwritten or customized email.

Add a specific detail of their recent volunteer work that was particularly impressive to encourage similar results in the future and add an extra level of personalization. A little box of chocolates or their favorite treat will no doubt be appreciated and shows that you care.

Host a volunteer event

If you’re looking to recognize all of your best volunteers, why not host a volunteer event? Volunteer events can be in-person, virtual, or a combination of both. Hosting a volunteer event provides a great opportunity for your team to get to know volunteers on a more personal basis.

Public praise

Whether it’s a social media shout out, an volunteer newsletter, or just a quick email blast, giving someone the recognition they deserve in front of others is hugely motivational. It lets them know that they are seen, not only by you but also by others, as an example of great work. Getting praise in front of others can help boost someone’s confidence, so they feel empowered and motivated to continue on the path they are on and contribute their time to your cause.

You can also give positive feedback during volunteer shifts as a way to show a volunteer recognition in front of others. Holding up someone as a positive example can help encourage others to work hard in the future. Use public praise as a way to incentivize small tasks that don’t get recognition through other channels. This is particularly great to recognize volunteers who are crucial to keep your volunteer program running but receive less recognition than other team members.


One strategy of volunteer recognition that is gaining is popularity is through community partnerships. Your organization can reach out to businesses in the community and see if they would be willing to provide discounts or incentives for volunteers. You would be surprised how many organizations would be open to  rewarding volunteers through coupons, promotions, and discounts as it allows them to be involved in a good cause, and gain visibility for their business.

Let them decide

Say thank you by giving your volunteers a bit of power. From choosing the radio station during their shift or selecting a small gift, giving them some power is a really meaningful way to say thank you. Volunteers are generally more motivated when they think they have a say in the outcome and can pick a reward that suits them.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, but letting them choose their reward is thoughtful and shows appreciation for the individual and their unique contribution. If it is a recurring reward, it can be really motivational for all volunteers as they know they have a chance of being chosen next week. You’d be surprised how motivational rewards and recognition can be!

Need More Time to Focus on Recognition?

Effectively recognizing volunteers takes time and a little bit of creativity. Regardless of the strategy that your organization chooses, the best way to recognize volunteers is by building a personal relationship with them. Investing in a volunteer management software can help your organization conserve time and focus on nurturing relationships with volunteers.

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