Volunteer Appreciation Should be Ingrained in Every Decision Your Nonprofit Makes in 2020

The new year is upon us and now is a great time to improve your nonprofits volunteer appreciation strategies.  In fact, every season of the year is a great time to acknowledge and demonstrate volunteer appreciation. Volunteers are helping nonprofits all over the world achieve their mission and provide much-needed assistance to the communities these organizations serve.

In 2015, volunteers provided 7.9 billion hours of service valued at over 184 billion dollars.  The overall value for a volunteer hour has increased substantially over the past 10 years.  In 2001, a volunteer hour was estimated to be worth $16.27 and today that same hour is worth over $24.00.

Volunteers are a valuable asset for nonprofits and many organizations need more support from volunteerism.  92% of nonprofit organizations say they do not have enough pro bono support.  In 2015, 25% of the adult population volunteered their time to make a difference.  Retention rates for volunteers in the nonprofit industry are continuing to fall according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nonprofits today need to engage volunteers in an effort to retain them.

How do you show volunteer appreciation? Thanking them is a start.

Did you know that 88% of nonprofits believe that engagement programs help attract and retain employees? According to 2015 data, only 55% of nonprofits, however, measure the impact volunteers have on their mission and goals.

The first step in thanking volunteers is understanding how important they are towards your nonprofit achieving its desired outcome. A recent study showed that volunteer retention is not a volunteer impact indicator by most nonprofits today.

If most nonprofits need more volunteers to achieve their mission and goals then why is retention, not a more measured data set? It should be.

There are many reasons why a volunteer may stop providing their time to your organization.  Here are a few of the most common issues:

  1. Lack of communication between the volunteer and nonprofit.
  2. The volunteer believed the nonprofit was unorganized.
  3. The volunteer did not feel a sense of professionalism.
  4. The volunteer did not feel like they were making an individual difference.
  5. The volunteer did not receive any feedback from leadership regarding their experience.
  6. The volunteer did not feel as though their time was appreciated.

Today, we are going to talk about one of the easiest ways your nonprofit can engage and retain volunteersby thanking them.

How can your nonprofit thank and appreciate volunteers?

There are many great ways that your nonprofit organization can thank and show appreciation to your organizational volunteers.  Many times, just a verbal thank you or an acknowledgment of their achievements will do. A study by Cicero, found that 50% of surveyed employees believe being thanked by managers improved their relationship and also built trust.  It is safe to say that the same would apply to the nonprofit world…do you agree?

Here are 3 ways your nonprofit can thank volunteers and increase retention rates.

Appreciate volunteers by communicating effectively

Communicating effectively can go a long way with your nonprofit volunteers. Keeping volunteers and prospects up to date with opportunities and organizational updates can help to deliver great experiences and convey an internal process to your supporters.

A survey in the for-profit industry found that 39% of surveyed employees believe that people in their organization do not collaborate enough.

Given that volunteers typically commit a smaller number of hours than full-time counterparts there is even a greater chance of communication issues.

Here are a few ways to improve volunteer communication:

  1. Communicate before, during, and after individual volunteer opportunities.
  2. Use multiple forms of communication and communication tools to adjust to the preferences of a specific volunteer.
  3. Provide your volunteers with the training they need to be successful in their role.
  4. Ensure consistency is a part of your communication strategy.
  5. Listen and leverage insights from your volunteer-base.

Volunteer appreciation can be shown by providing memorable experiences

The act of volunteering should be a rewarding and enriching experience for all involved.  Volunteers should be offered a rewarding and memorable experience in exchange for their time.  One of the best ways to provide these types of experiences is by being dependable.  Make sure that your volunteers have the tools they need to perform their role and are involved in a task they enjoy.

Your nonprofit should also remind volunteers of your organization’s mission whenever you can to spark the emotion that led volunteers there in the first place.

Here are some additional ideas to create memorable experiences for volunteers:

  1. Allow volunteers to see projects in action and the impact they are making in the community.
  2. Share success stories with your volunteer-base.
  3. Understand your volunteers and their individual interests (this will help you put them in the right role).
  4. Take time to get to know your volunteers and create relationships with and between volunteers and clients.

Check out this case study on a nonprofit who looks at volunteerism differently! For City Rescue Mission, volunteer opportunities are all about building relationships. 🙂


Show volunteer appreciation by recognizing personal achievements

Another great way to thank volunteers is to recognize their individual contributions towards achieving your organization’s mission and goals.  Recognition is important because it creates a personal link between a specific volunteer and the impact your nonprofit is making in the community.

Providing recognition impacts engagement increases productivity, and can create new referral channels for your organization.  According to a for-profit study disengaged employees cost businesses an estimated 550 billion dollars last year alone.

The impact of volunteer recognition programs is very real.

Here are a few ways to recognize your supporters:

  1. Incorporate gamification into your nonprofits reward and recognition program.
  2. Spotlight your top volunteers on social media.
  3. Write handwritten thank-you notes to your volunteers and encourage them to continue to fill opportunities with your organization.
  4. Create networking opportunities for your volunteers, so they can meet others and build friendships.
  5. Be creative and set new industry trends for recognizing volunteers and their achievements.


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