Written by: Shreya Tragad
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Your nonprofit’s volunteers are the core of your organization, devoting their time and energy to keep your projects and programs running smoothly. Just as you show appreciation to your generous donors, you must also express gratitude to volunteers for their tireless dedication to supporting your cause. 

The benefits of showing appreciation to volunteers are numerous: you can engage volunteers more deeply in your work, show them that their opinions matter, and ultimately increase your volunteer retention rate. 

If you’re interested in improving your volunteer appreciation approach to help boost volunteer engagement and satisfaction, you’re in the right place! There are plenty of quick changes you can implement to your volunteer stewardship strategy to make volunteers feel appreciated and valued. Use these five tips to more effectively convey your gratitude: 

  1. Personalize your thank-you messages.
  2. Offer tangible appreciation gifts.
  3. Plan an appreciation event.
  4. Ask for volunteers’ feedback.
  5. Recognize top volunteers publicly. 

Ready to level up your volunteer appreciation strategy? Let’s get started. 

1. Personalize your thank-you messages.

Your volunteers donate many hours of their time and their skills to support your mission. In return, it’s important to express gratitude and appreciation to make them feel accomplished and satisfied. Whether you choose to express appreciation in the form of a gift,  letter, or social media shoutout, be sure to make it personal!

Addressing your volunteer thank-you emails and messages with volunteers’ preferred names, such as “Dear Jorge” or “Dear Eliza,” is much more personal and meaningful than sending mass emails that begin with “Dear Volunteer.” You can also highlight any major accomplishments in your messages that are specific to each volunteer to personalize your notes and show your volunteers that you acknowledge their hard work.

Your volunteer profiles within your volunteer management system should keep track of volunteers’ preferred names (and if they don’t, it could be time for a software upgrade!) Also, use your volunteer management software to research volunteers’ engagement histories and reference their specific contributions in your thank-you letters. 

2. Offer tangible appreciation gifts.

As Double the Donation’s volunteer management guide states, a simple thank-you note would suffice for many volunteers to feel acknowledged and valued by your organization. However, many volunteers would also appreciate more tangible tokens of appreciation in the form of gifts.  

You can give your volunteers different types of merchandise that are branded with your organization’s colors and logo, gift cards, or even something to hang on their wall to be reminded of you!

InitLive’s roundup of volunteer appreciation ideas offers plenty of gift ideas you might offer supporters, including: 

  • T-shirts – When you give your volunteers matching t-shirts, it helps build team spirit and a sense of belonging. They’re also a great way to promote your volunteer program. You can make things fun by encouraging your volunteers to participate in a design contest and use a poll to decide on the winning design!
  • Gift cards – Who doesn’t love free food? Ask your volunteers what their favorite food or restaurant is and give them a gift card to express your gratitude. You can also offer gift cards or coupon books to a variety of local businesses. 
  • Framed photos – If you have a group shot of your entire volunteer team, you can frame it and give it to your volunteers. These can be hung anywhere in their homes to remind them of the memories they made while working with your organization.
  • Handwritten letters from your staff or community members – If you have any volunteers who went above and beyond, invite your community members to write personal letters to those who made a difference in their lives. Your volunteers will love to receive words of gratitude coming directly from those who they served!

No matter how you choose to express your appreciation, these gift ideas are guaranteed to make your volunteers feel special and encourage them to stay long-term with your organization. Remember to make your volunteers feel special by personalizing your gifts!

3. Plan an appreciation event.

Your organization may want to plan a larger volunteer appreciation opportunity from time to time to thank all volunteers at once. An appreciation event is a perfect platform for engaging volunteers in a fun activity and recognizing them in a public setting. 

These events can be in-person or virtual. You might plan an experience such as:

  • A dinner – Ask all your volunteers what their favorite foods are and plan a dinner party. This is a fun way for everyone to connect and get to know each other on a personal level. Remember to be inclusive of those who may have food restrictions.
  • An awards ceremony – This can be an appreciation gala where everyone can dress up, and you can hand out awards to your volunteers. When you express appreciation in front of your entire team, there’s no doubt your volunteers are going to feel special.
  • A night out – Plan a night out with your volunteers on a weekend when everyone’s available. This can be a trivia night, movie night, bowling, or a virtual escape room. These events allow everyone to connect in a different environment outside of volunteering.

Inviting volunteers to an appreciation event shows them that you took the time to plan an engaging experience and allow them to make fun memories. This will help boost retention rates, and your volunteers will feel more inclined to stay engaged with your organization.

4. Ask for volunteers’ feedback.

Show volunteers that you value and appreciate their input by asking for their feedback. You can show that you are willing to listen to volunteers’ opinions and incorporate them into your ongoing operations.

Surveys are a great way to help nonprofits determine the effectiveness of their volunteer program and gain insights into what’s working and what isn’t. It also helps understand volunteers’ satisfaction levels. Start by determining the objective of your survey, then compile a variety of questions that will help you get to the heart of your volunteers’ thoughts and opinions.

Send out volunteer surveys that ask questions like:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how enjoyable would you rate the volunteer experience?
  • Is there anything you would like to change about the experience?
  • Did you feel that the volunteer work you completed made a difference for our nonprofit? 
  • Would you recommend our volunteer program to a family member or friend?

Remember to leave a section at the end of your survey for your volunteers to leave additional comments about anything else that’s on their minds. Once you’ve gathered this data, review the results to start incorporating volunteer feedback into upcoming opportunities.

5. Recognize top volunteers publicly. 

Some volunteers go above and beyond the call of duty, spending multiple hours of the week helping your organization thrive. For instance, you may have some volunteers who are continually your most successful peer-to-peer fundraisers. Or, you might have others who are so experienced that they lead recurring volunteer opportunities themselves. These volunteers deserve individual recognition.

Public recognition is one of the most effective ways that make your volunteers feel valued. For instance, you can spotlight your volunteers on social media before and after an event or even create a blog post and share it on social media for everyone to read! You can also highlight any major volunteer accomplishments in your monthly newsletters.

These public displays of appreciation will inspire volunteers to continue engaging with your cause over the long term. Your volunteers will feel more encouraged to continue putting their best foot forward. And, you may also inspire more people to get involved!

Now that you’ve read about the several ideas for expressing volunteer appreciation, it’s time to get creative! Acknowledgment and appreciation play a vital role in encouraging your volunteers to continue supporting you and making them feel like they’re integral members of your organization. Good luck!

About the Author:


Digital Marketing Specialist at InitLive

Shreya is a creative content creator focusing on delivering information about the importance of volunteerism for nonprofit organizations. She is passionate about creating engaging content, writing, and graphic design to help viewers easily retain information. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.