Fonda Kendrick,

The holidays… I don’t know about you, but they seem to sneak up on me every year. It’s such a busy time. However, as you are planning for the season, don’t forget about your volunteers. This is a great time to acknowledge the active volunteers within your organization. Your thoughtful gift is sure to leave them feeling appreciated and motivated. Still wondering what to give them? Here are a few last-minute (and cost-conscious) ideas:

  • Think back over the course of the year. Do you have photos of volunteer activities? If so, a framed snapshot can become a great keepsake. On a tight budget? Simply print out a digital photo and slip it into a dollar-store frame.
  • A “start” of a plant makes a nice gift for those with green thumbs. Think “dollar store” again for small pots.
  • Is your organization having a holiday party for staff? Why not invite volunteers, too? This gesture can solidify bonds between staff and volunteers, and it allows a more social setting than the normal office environment. It also makes your volunteers feel that they are truly a part of your team. The gathering can be as informal as a lunch-time potluck. This might be a nice venue for handing out certificates of recognition, as well.
  • For those who are tech-savvy, why not record a few brief interviews of people whose lives have been touched by your organization? Burn them onto a CD and distribute to volunteers.
  • At this time of the year, some people start to feel inundated with “stuff.” So, you may want to opt for a “consumable” gift. Cookies, nuts, or fresh fruit wrapped in colored cellophane are a great treat. (Check with your local grocer; you may be able to get these donated.) Either a cookie or hot chocolate mix in a tin is also a welcome gift. Hand-dipped chocolate-covered pretzels are both easy and inexpensive to make, too.
  • Collect favorite recipes of each staff member and compile into a booklet. Make it a theme (favorite soups, desserts, etc.), or just wing it!
  • Use inexpensive rubber stamps on paper to make note cards/stationery. Tie small packs with decorative ribbon.
  • Donate a book to a local library in honor of a volunteer or group of volunteers. Check ahead of time to make sure, but most libraries will add a plate on the inside cover of the book detailing both the donor and the honoree(s).
  • Sometimes the best gift can be a heartfelt, personalized letter. This does take some time, but if it is written by your organization’s volunteer coordinator or other staff member that has worked closely with the volunteer, your words of appreciation may be valued far beyond other gifts.

These ideas, of course, are geared toward those who are currently volunteering. However, don’t forget about the ones on your inactive list. Look back to the ones you haven’t seen within the last six to twelve months. Taking the time to send a holiday card to those volunteers you haven’t seen in awhile may pay off later. The card will serve as a reminder of your agency and may garner your organization some extra consideration when new year’s resolutions are made.

And remember, although the holidays are an obvious time to reward volunteers, make sure to keep in mind the importance volunteer recognition plays throughout the year!