Saying thank you to your volunteers – especially, but not exclusively, during Volunteers Week 1-7 June 2021

1 June 2021

As volunteer coordinators or managers we are always looking for the perfect way to say thank you to our volunteers. Volunteers Week is the ideal time, but of course need not be the only time to show how grateful we are.

In this unprecedented period of our lives, just getting on with the day to day is taking some resilience. Thinking ahead can be daunting, but June isn’t far away and it is when we traditionally say a big national thank you to all our volunteers.

I have long been of the opinion that, though we want to express our gratitude, we have sometimes gone about it the wrong way, after all volunteering isn’t show biz, no Oscars needed. We want to do something special but does it have to be more public than personal?

Why do we acknowledge our volunteers’ efforts with an award ceremony, where the volunteers have been nominated and judged, and unintentionally introducing rivalry for the winning awards?

You already know that those who volunteer in your organisation do so because they want to help to make a difference. They believe that your service will bring about a change for its users, and they would like to be a part of it, in whatever big or small way they can. Sometimes, in our search for adequate appreciation, we neglect to remember what motivates our volunteers in the first place.

All volunteers should be thanked personally and equally. There is a bit of a disconnect between what motivates volunteers (passion, values, purpose), and what we traditionally offer as recognition for that effort (t-shirts, trophies, awards events).

Of course there is something nice about getting together for a meal or a leisure activity, but we should be making sure that we do this for all our volunteers and staff together, ‘Team Time’ as regularly as funds permit. My personal favourite is pottery painting, it’s fun too, right?

There is one quick and easy way that you can bridge that volunteer appreciation disconnect – a meaningful volunteer thank you letter.

I know that you are all busy people and that you may have quite a few volunteers, but a few a week is do-able don’t you think? Here are a few tips that may help.

Five suggested elements for your Volunteer Thank You letter:

  1. Make your letter personal and acknowledge their personal contribution
    This may seem super obvious, but address the thank you letter or note, using the volunteer’s name, not “Dear Volunteer”. Tell them specifically what you’ve noticed or what they did that went above and beyond. “Thanks for your time and commitment” is fine. “Thank you for staying late to reorganise the stock” says that you know what they did, that their time is valuable, and you noticed that they gave it to your organisation.
  • Make your letter specific
    Point out something a volunteer did, or the way they made someone feel, and say thank you specifically for that. Look for occasions when your volunteer went above and beyond their role. Maybe the ‘above and beyond’ for your volunteer is that you know you can always count on them.
  • Connect your letter to the organisation
    Remember, volunteers are with you because they want to advance your organisation by contributing their own time and effort. They really care about your work. When you communicate your gratitude, connect it to the service in order to underscore the impact of their work.
    They chose you and your organisation for a reason. Remind them regularly that they chose well because they are making a difference with their work.
  • Make your letter timely, not only in Volunteers Week
    When you see or hear something you want to recognise, do it right away! That way you won’t forget, and the experience is still fresh in the mind of the volunteer. Plus, the more quickly you acknowledge a positive experience, the sooner you reap the positive benefits from a happy, heart-warmed volunteer.
  • Sign your name
    Again, this might go without saying, but put pen to paper and sign your volunteer thank you letter. If you’re sending your note via email, still make sure to include a personal closing.
    Bonus points if you can get a recipient of your organisation’s services, a board member or other leading member of your team, to add something as a footnote.

Volunteer appreciation can be simple and beneficial
Volunteers may appreciate a special token of your organisation’s gratitude, but the experience of receiving a personal and heartfelt volunteer thank you letter will remind them why they are doing what they are doing. They are driven to help your organisation and your community, without pay, because by doing so, they can bring about improvements that matter to your community.

Further help and support

Volunteer recruitment – if you have new volunteer opportunities to share, add them for free on our online database, Volunteering in North Yorkshire.

New enquiries – if you need support with any aspect of volunteer management please complete a New Enquiry Form and one of our developments officer will be in touch to support you.

General info – for general information, guidance, templates, online training and resources please visit our dedicated website, which includes 15 factsheets that cover many aspects of volunteer management e.g. recruitment, supervisions and template policies etc.

If you have any further questions or need support with any aspect of volunteering, please do get in touch

Volunteer co-ordinator network meetings – a network meeting for volunteer co-ordinators and those those in a charity with a responsibility for volunteers across North Yorkshire to network and share information, advice, tips and thoughts on all aspects of volunteer management, see here for more information.