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Out-of-the-Ordinary Gifts for Volunteers
Recognition

A Cover Worthy Idea!
Our organization has a bi-monthly membership magazine. As a recognition for their outstanding work, the leaving president gets a mock cover of the magazine with her picture and some nice words about her as the headlines. All in a nice frame, the cover is ready to be hanged on the wall for her to remember the hard work and great fun she had during her presidency.
Submitted 3/3/2013 by Sandra Drechsel

The Sweet Rewards of Volunteering
We gave out notes with a good quality, wrapped chocolate attached. The note read "Thanks for being such a sweetie..". Our helpers at Kids Club loved the little treat and being acknowledged.
Submitted 13 April 2012 by Helen Close

Thyme for your Time
In scouting we often thank the many parents who volunteer their time. This year at one of our Court of Honors, to recognize the adults and leaders I had each one come up and I recognize their position (Assistant Scoutmasters, Committee Chairman, Treasurer, etc.) and told of the training they have done to better our program for the boys. After putting them on their much earned soap box, I handed them a potted plant with the herb Thyme in it and said "Thank you for volunteering your 'Thyme'.
Submitted 4 August 2011 by Kathy Wood Scoutmaster Troop 338

A Salty Recognition
Our Historical Society has a number of volunteers that keep us going. For our annual Volunteer Recognition and Appreciation Luncheon held in December we shopped antique stores all year collecting unique salt and pepper shakers for sometimes as little as $1.00 for the pair and never more than $4.00 per pair. We then boxed them up with a ribbon and tag that said, "Seasons Greetings". Volunteers are the seasoning that makes us taste so good!
Submitted 17 July 2011 by Melinda Sedelmeyer

"Leader Camp Survival Kits"
Last year was my first in charge of the leader recognitions. I went to various hotels and asked for donations of their mini shampoo, soap, lotion, sewing kits, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. Harbor Freight donated 75 led flashlights. I tied it all in a bandana and called it a "leader camp survival kit." Each leader received one at our award dinner. They loved them!!
Submitted 11 April 2011 by Diane Goard

Journals
This year we had our print shop make some journals for the volunteers. I designed a cover and included a logo pen with each journal. We wrapped them in cellophane with a thank you card. We got a great response!
Submitted 24 February 2011 by Kristyna Williams

Personalized Magnets
You can get magnets the size of business cards with one sticky side for about $10/25. I create a fun message with some graphics in the size of a business card (2" X 3.5") and adhere it to the magnet. The volunteer gets a refrigerator magnet that reminds them how much they are appreciated.
Submitted 24 Feb 2011 by Abby R

An Easy Meal on a Busy Night
In an effort to keep costs down for our Girl Scout troop, we will be recognizing those parents that stepped forward in a big way with the gift of time in the way of a "boxed dinner". This can have all the dry ingredients packaged up nicely with a recipe for an easy meal on a busy night. box will be wrapped up nicely with a little clock tag saying thanks for the gift of your time.
Submitted 6 June 2009 by Tracy Lindsay

Thank You Scrolls
Since money is short this year, our agency's "gift" to the volunteers will be a letter, creatively arranged, that will have various quotes from staff about the value of volunteers in their areas.  Each staff responsible for volunteers will write something, as will our executive director. In addition, all staff will be invited to submit a comment for the letter.  We'll scroll these and tie them with a ribbon to make them look decorative.  Volunteers like to know they're valued, and the staff comments will be wonderful.
Submitted on 6 February 2009 by  Susan Lebovitz

Appreciation Stations
Our location holds a thank you event in February, so for National Volunteer Recognition Week, we had "Appreciation Stations" at most of the locations that host volunteers. At each station the volunteers could pick a treat, tea, and a seed packet. All of the gifts had volunteer sayings on them.
Submitted on 5 February 2009 by Samantha DeRooy

Day of Pampering
For our Volunteer Recognition event, we had a continential breakfast, gave facials, manicures, massages, and offered golf lessons (on a small putting green).  We even brought in a couple big recliners and had foot baths. We had one room set aside for meditation and some spiritual readings complete with incense. Lots of fluffy towels, relaxing music, flowers. The Avon lady, Mary Kay and local spa were thrilled to participate in exchange for some advertising.  The chiropractor from our town came too. 
Submitted on 25 May 2008 by Sandy Fleck

Hands-On Thanks
As an organization which mobilizes volunteers for many other organizations through our Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, we looked for a special way to say thank you to in-house volunteers who provide leadership, training or support to those who serve other groups. At this week's event, we hired (at greatly reduced cost - and the promise of pro bono next time!) a licensed massage therapist to give each one a chair-massage.  That was our "hands on" thank you and they were surprised and rejuvenated by the gesture.  (Please keep in mind -- there are those who do not want a stranger touching them.  For those people we had discount coupons for other personal services.)
Submitted on 2 May 2008 by Joan E. Thompson

Time Sheets with Special Notes of Thanks
On the first of every month, I collect and replace time sheets for volunteers (we have 3 separate buildings where volunteers work). Each month I attach a note of thanks to their timesheets. The note could be from me, personally, from a member of our staff who has made positive comments about the volunteer, or from a resident with whom the volunteer has been spending time.
Submitted on 4 March 2008 by Phil DuBois

Sweet Sorbet Thank You Note
I just thought I would share this simple idea.  I needed a small thank you for volunteers who completed a big project we were working on.  Since our budget is VERY little I wanted something small that would fit in a thank you card and send in the mail.  So I found recipes for making a drink/dessert using those Crystal Light "On the Go" packs.  I attached them to a card that said "Thanks for contributing to our success.  Have a treat on us!" I got the Raspberry Ice flavor and found a recipe for a Double Raspberry Float.  I gave them directions to mix the packet with a bottle of water and then pour over 1/2 c raspberry sorbet.  I attached them to a small drink umbrella or you could use those squiggley straws or drink swizzle sticks. Hope this helps!
Submitted on 26 March 2008 by Jennifer

Memory Keepsake CD
This is a slightly biased posting (since I own the company I'm talking about), but I've had various volunteer groups celebrate the accomplishments of a volunteer or leader by using a service called LifeOnRecord Events.  The way it works is that a toll-free number is given out to fellow volunteers, and other people the volunteer has touched.  People call in with stories of their favorite moments of time spent with the volunteer, favorite memories, or well-wishes.  All the recordings are compiled onto a keepsake CD.  The website is http://www.lifeonrecord.com/uniquegift.htm and we have special pricing for volunteer organizations.  I'm the owner and you can contact me for more information. 
Submitted on 15 March 2008 by Alaa El Ghatit

Bright Light of Thanks
Shining a light on our disease: We bought blindingly bright flashlights for researchers who worked on illuminating a disease. They are sold at automotive and hardware stores.
Submitted on 14 March 2008 by Beth

Starry Photo Album
This wasn't my idea but I saw the result and was impressed. On the retirement of a volunteer, the staff put together a photo album of some 'before and after' shots of the project and photos of people doing the project. They then gave everyone involved stars to write farewell comments, and these were also placed throughout the album. The volunteer was bowled over and has a wonderful record of the good work he did.
Submitted on 13 March 2008 by Margaret Redsell

Customized Cookbooks
One of my most popular gifts was a cookbook.  I collected recipes from each volunteer, some included a personal story about the recipe which made it even better.  I put them together into a booklet.  One year, I used postcards from our institution for the covers, the next I bought paper doily valentine hearts & stickers on the cover.  It was a very inexpensive project.  And the volunteers loved it! 
Submitted on 5 September 2007 by Deborah Jones-Miller

Unique "Roots" Vase
An inexpensive and personal gift that we give to our priceless volunteers come from the local dollar store and our home. The gift consist of presenting a large vase full of water with colorful rocks at the bottom and a live plant at the top. There is an plastic piece holding the plant from falling down into the water (i.e the bottom of a clear plastic cup). In appreciation we say to the person thank you for helping us establish our roots.
Submitted on 28 February 2007 by Kijafa Johnson

Lifesavers
For the last volunteer recognition event, we handed out rolls of Lifesavers candy with a mailing label stuck to it that read "Thanks for being a lifesaver! This was a simple project that really didn't take much time. We just had to create and print the labels at our office and they fit perfectly on the roll of candy.
Submitted on 24 April 2006 by Sarah Pinder

Dollar Store
I go to the dollar store and find cute cheap things that I can write nice sayings with for my student staff.  For example, I buy Pop Rocks candy and attach a note telling them "you rock for..."
Submitted on 1 April 2005 by Rachelle

Gift Ideas
Here are a few ideas that I've used to thank volunteers who work with the Army's Family Readiness Groups.

  • Candle - Present a candle with a card saying "You light the way" or "No one can hold a candle to you"
  • Light bulbs - "You light the way -- thanks for your glowing enthusiasm."
  • Permanent marker - "You've made a lasting and permanent contribution to your group."
  • Lucky Charm cereal - "We're so LUCKY to have you!"
  • 100 Grand candy bars - "Volunteers are priceless."
  • Payday candy bar - "Volunteers don't receive a salary because they're worthless... it's because they're priceless!"
  • Gold chocolate coins - "Volunteers are worth their weight in gold."
  • Andes mints/ peppermint patties - "Your service is worth a mint to us!"
  • Ruler/Tape measure - "It's easy to measure the difference you've made in our group -- you're amazing!"
  • Clock - "Thanks for the time you've given to our group!"
  • Group's logo Hat - "Our hats are off to you! Thanks for all you do!"
  • Shirt - "We know you'd give the shirt off your back... so here's an extra one for the next time you give your all."
  • Toaster - "A Toast to a super volunteer! Whenever you use this toaster, remember to toast yourself, too!"
  • Plant - "We grow luckier every day you're with us."

Submitted on 18 March 2005 by Danielle Hamilton

Volunteers Make a World of Difference
This year, we are using the theme "Volunteers make a world of Difference". We bought inexpensive globes, with small paper banners with this message printed on it. We plan to pass out maps given to us free by the local tourist information centre (to encourage travelling around the world!) and have asked volunteers to come to the event dressed in outfits that represent their cultural heritage in order to illustrate volunteering across the world. We also plan to serve foods from around the world too.
Submitted on 14 February 2005 by Nancy Hughes

Volunteer Christmas Tree
This year we made a volunteer Christmas tree. We took a picture of each one of our 200 volunteers and scrapbooked the pictures onto a 3" x 6" strip of stiff paper. We punched holes at the top for string and hung them on the tree. The tree was present for our Christmas recognition event and then transferred to the main lobby of our facility for the rest of the Christmas season. It drew a LOT of attention and was quite the conversation piece. It was a beautiful tree and quite awe-inspiring. We will make this an annual project, so kept the pictures on file to be used again. Taking the pictures was a huge project and that is why we will go through the photos every year to update as needed.
Submitted on 20 January 2005 by Nita Dueck

Calculators with Special Message
We do an annual recognition event for our board and commission members. One year we provided calculators with the City's logo and the saying "We count on you" printed on it.
Submitted on 4 January 2005 by Karla Stovall

Unique "Thank You" Chocolate Bars
I obtain flat chocolate bars and design individual candy bar covers with our logo and/or a design with a "thank you" for your contributions...etc. These can be given out as individual recognitions, or at group events. The designs can be easily changed so they are always unique. A variety of software packages can be used. I then just cut them to size on a paper cutter and tape them around the candy bars. Flat bars are easiest to use. When they are distributed, they generate smiles.

Another idea: we ordered an embosser with our logo and a "thank you" message on it that can be embossed on seals or used on envelopes and paper directly. It's an investment that's worth it, and adds class to recognition efforts.
Submitted on 2 December 2004 by Laurie Eytel, CVA, Volunteer Manager, Children, Youth and Family, Fairfax County Dept. of Family Services, Virginia, USA

Totally Chocolate
For a few years I've ordered recognition items from Totally Chocolate - a company in Washington state. Volunteers are very pleased to receive an item that is consumable (rather than an item to collect dust) and is of very high quality. The company has superb 100% Premium Belgian chocolate items....the "You're A Star" (dark chocolate star individually wrapped in bright blue mylar with a big star on the front) is my favorite as it is just two bites. (Webmaster Note: This company is listed along with other volunteer recognition companies in our Compare and Buy area.)
Submitted on 25 May 2004 by Kristine Poelzer, Manager, Volunteer/Community Partnership, Hennepin County Human Services Department, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Goblets
I have VERY little budget to do an annual volunteer recognition event. (I like to do a classy event!) This year I did A Night On The Town! I like to give each volunteer a special gift to take home with them. For one whole year I collected crystal goblets. I went to yard sales, thrift stores, called all my friends and had them looking. Most people donated the goblets. I had 136 by the time I was finished. I bought charms at the dollar store..six for a dollar. I washed each goblet and put a charm on it. Some of the crystal I had collected was just beautiful.

When I gave my talk at the party, I had a goblet on the podium. I explained that each guest that evening would go home with a special goblet. It wouldn't match anything else they had in the house. It was special. Each goblet was different than the others. Some were elegant and made beautiful music, some were more durable, but still beautiful. Each goblet brings its own uniqueness to the table. We had all sizes and colors of goblets. I told the volunteers, "when you sit and relax with your goblet filled with wine, tea, or special beverage, think of just how important you are to us. You too bring a special uniqueness and beauty to us. And when you look at the charm on your goblet, remember how we feel about the "charm" you have brought to our organization".

I had all the goblets filled with champagne colored punch and there wasn't a single goblet left! They all looked so beautiful filled and they were a huge hit! I've had several comments since the event regarding their special gift...and it cost practically nothing but the time to wash and fill them!
Submitted on 20 May 2004 by Diane L. Hennessy, Director of Volunteers, South Florida Science Museum, Florida - USA

Digital Photo of Volunteer
Whenever we have a function where we give out certificates and awards, we always take a digital photo of the volunteer with their award. Invariably, the volunteers then follow up asking for a copy of the photo, so what we now do is create a simple card using publisher. An A4 piece of paper is folded into 4, and on the front cover we print our logo and the words 'thank you'. We then print the digital photo of the volunteer inside the card and write a hand written personal note and send it off to each volunteer as a follow up to the more formal celebration. The feedback has been amazing - the volunteers get their photo, and we gain an extra chance to say thanks in a very personal way!
Submitted on 17 May 2004 by Andy Fryar, Executive Officer, Lyell McEwin Regional Volunteers Inc. Adelaide, South Australia

Seeds of Kindness
Our theme to recognize our senior volunteers is "Volunteers Plant Seeds of Kindness" and we are giving each volunteer a packet of flower seeds at the recognition banquet....where they are to wear their favorite garden hat. Submitted on 15Apr03 by Patty Dreiman, Director, Knox County RSVP, Indiana, USA

Framed Quotes
We had a very simple but meaningful volunteer recognition gift. Each volunteer received a quote relating to volunteerism that was framed so they can put it on their desk or hang on the wall. Many volunteers have expressed thanks for the gift because every time they look at it they can reflect on the service they have been providing. Submitted by Renee Richie, Volunteer Director, Simpson Housing Services

Angels
Several years ago at Mercy Hospital we decided to use Angels as our theme for Volunteer Recognition. We worked with our Gift Shop to order musical angel figurines and had a different large angel as the centerpiece for each table. We based our recognition on "Angels of Mercy". Each volunteer took home a small musical angel (cost about $5 each) and each table had a raffle for the centerpiece (cost about $25 each). We covered the tables with white linen and used silver or gold accents to compliment the centerpiece. This was the most popular banquet we had. Submitted by Diana Case, Regional Director, Volunteer Services, Mercy Health Partners

Placemats
Since 2001 was International Year of the Volunteer, we decided in 2000 to take random photos of our volunteers while doing their various volunteer work. We then downloaded 6 pictures on legal size paper to make "placemats". We were able to make 4 different placements, which we laminated and will use at each place setting. These and the other photos not used we made into a powerpoint presentation which we will show at the ceremony. Submitted by Judy Gaby, Secretary, Logansport State Hospital

A Penny Saved... We have a volunteer who has been with us for quite a while. Looking back over her hours, I noticed she had worked over 1000 hours. My coworker, Betty Baker, thought it would be a neat idea to collect pennies -- one to represent each hour she had worked. We presented them to our volunteer in a clear flower vase that we had around the office and tied a red ribbon around it (our organization color). It was a very inexpensive way to show how much we appreciate what she has done. It also helped present the number of hours she has dedicated in a tangible way. It's amazing how much longer 1000 hours seems when you look at it this way. If the volunteer doesn't want to keep the pennies, it might be a nice gesture to donate that amount of money to a charity of the volunteer's choosing in his or her name. Submitted by Jessica Brown, Tourism Sales Manager, Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau

Framed Photographs
Our agency got a large donation of flat lucite frames that we have had on hand for ages, without knowing what to use them for. I found large, inexpensive letters at a party store that we strung together saying "BBI Loves Volunteers," and our entire staff assembled, holding this banner, for a photograph. We had several copies made, which I labeled on the back with each staff member's name and title. We framed them in the donated frames and made them into magnets (you can purchase an inexpensive roll of stick-on magnetic material at craft stores, which can be cut into strips of any size). We gave them to our volunteers during national volunteer recognition week. People loved them and thought it was really great to have a picture of their friends on the staff. They really appreciated the gesture, and it was very inexpensive. Submitted by Cathy Theodore, Volunteer Program Supervisor, Brother to Brother International

Discount Card
This past year, we wrote a letter to all the merchants at a near-by shopping center, asking them to join with us and offer a one-time special discount on some part of their services or products. This included restaurants, a lingerie store, greeting card/gift shops, and a gas station. Some offered a discount on products - others, a free item when another item was purchased. We designed a "Volunteer Appreciation Card", which listed the merchants on the back, and specified the benefit. After the retailers approved the card, we distributed them at our annual volunteer recognition event. We hope that response from the merchants will be even stronger next year, as we intend to do this again. It is a "win-win" for our community, and a good marketing tool for the shop owners. Our volunteers loved it, and appreciated the effort that went into its creation! Submitted by LouAnne Smith, Volunteer Coordinator, Doctors Hospital of Dallas

Donation
I have frequently done volunteer work at churches. I still remember the time I was called to the front of the service and presented a small inexpensive lapel pin ... coupled with an announcement that a donation was made on my behalf for mission work. I was delighted about the donation. When I look at the pin in my jewelry box, I think of that donation. It's about the only recognition pins that I have kept over the years. Submitted by Michele D. Newhouse, Owner, COVENANT Professional Services

Student Art
I am a Volunteer Coordinator with a long-term, tutoring/mentoring program that works with inner-city youth called A.C.E.S. The majority of our volunteer tutor/mentors are undergraduate students and even a few medical/graduate students. We adore the students in our agency, and we also love their art or "kid art.' As part of our volunteer recognition workplan, we make sure each volunteer receives a work of student art at least once a year - sometimes twice. This ranges from really cool thank you cards ( not just marker and paper) and we also discovered that kids love to make buttons. We had our students make buttons for tutors this year and actually had the button maker at an event. One can either rent a maker or just cut out the appropriate size circles on white paper and have a button maker do the rest of the work. The volunteers loved these. It it meaningful, creative, customer-generated and inexpensive. Submitted by Stacy Gustafson, Volunteer Coordinator, A.C.E.S. (Athletes Committed to Educating Students)

Hand-made Cards
One of the best ways to give a volunteer recognition is through hand-made cards. Cut a plain piece of colored paper with pinking shears or decorative scissors. With a colored stamp pad and stamps, send a message (i.e., "Keep smiling'" or "Keep up the good work") Volunteers love the personalized touch and it really means a great deal to them when they know you have spent some time on them! Submitted by Cindy Fairs, Consultant , Okanagan Volunteer Management Services

Thanks Booklet
We asked the patients (& staff) in our mental health facility to write a brief note of thanks to the individual & groups that come in to provide parties/entertainment, etc. for them ; then we typed them all up to be put in a booklet with the center fold pages signatures of many patients expressing in their own handwriting, their own thanks. These were placed at the place settings of each volunteer at our recognition luncheon/reception. They all loved them. Entertainment during this was provided by the patient choir. Submitted by Judy Gaby, Secretary, Logansport State Hospital

Recognizing our Volunteer Bookkeepers
A few years ago while working for a community organization, it wasn't long before I realized we needed a great deal of help with book keeping. I recruited volunteers, with those skills, from the local accounting school. They did an excellent job. As a way of saying "Thanks" I bought a bunch of fat pencils for each person, tied them with raffia and placed a "thank you" note on them. They loved them and many still have them sitting on their desks today. Submitted by Marian Wilkins, Regional Coordinator Volunteer Resources, BC Cancer Agency

Photo Scrapbook
While managing a volunteer program for a social service agency, I worked with many corporate volunteer groups. Our agency had a set of standards that all of our children memorized. I created a thank you certificate with the standards written as an outside border. Thank you and the event name was in the center along with our logo. I left a big space in the middle. Throughout the event we'd capture Polaroid pictures of the volunteers doing their job. Afterwards, I'd use my circle cutter to make a hole in the center where I taped the Polaroid of the volunteer. These thank you certificates were always gratefully accepted as a special token of the event. For one particularly large event where we had the help of a very dedicated corporate team I created a photo scrapbook of their time with us. I'm an avid scrapbooker so I used fun papers, die cuts, and special lettering to tell the story of this group's involvement. It takes a little bit of time, but when you stack it up against the huge contribution of these volunteers, it's well worth it! Submitted by Marcia Hale, Manager, Volunteer Services, Chabot Observatory and Science Center

For Volunteers in the Arts
At Women & Their Work years ago, we ordered paper fans (the type that were used in unair-conditioned churches and funeral homes in the South) and one of our artists silk-screened a design that said "Art Fan"... it was a huge hit. She is now famous, and everyone who got one has kept it! Mine hangs on the wall in my den... I could never afford another piece by this woman! I don't know where you can get the fans, but you could get door hangers from Papers Direct and have an artist design something that said "Do not disturb... visiting with the muses." or something like that. I think having an artist involved would be more meaningful than anything you could buy for these volunteers. If your program works with kids, why not have the kids design refrigerator magnets? Submitted by Ann Stafford, Austin (TX) Public Library

Totebags Designed by the Students
Thank you gifts for our volunteer tutors last year were natural colored totebags with logo and school name on one side. The other side was decorated by individual students saying "thank you" and drawings with permanent markers in red, green, blue, and black. Great advertising and conversation starter! Submitted by Trudy Bouligny, Coordinator of Volunteer Tutors, Project Makes Sense, Calistoga JUSD CA,

Mousepads
We're a women and technology, all-volunteer-based organization and we wanted to give volunteers something technology related. So we gave all the volunteers mouse pads which had our logo screened on it. Submitted by Mona, Director of Volunteer Services, Wired Woman Society

Teen Readers Recognition The Library world held its first Teen Read Week from October 19-25. In conjunction with this we decided to have a special recognition for our young adult volunteers. This was the idea of one of our branch managers, Lisa Costich. (Her branch utilizes the skills of many YA volunteers.) In September, two authors who write books that are read primarily by young adult women, Beatrice Sparks and Lurlene McDaniel were at an Indiana Library Federation conference. We purchased a number of their books. We asked them to autograph the books with, "To a Great ACPL Volunteer". They were delighted to do so. We gave these to our YA women volunteers along with a letter of recognition to celebrate them and the week. For the YA men volunteers, we bought Pizza Hut gift certificates and sent a letter celebrating Teen Read Week and them by saying "devour a pizza and a good book". Our Friends of the Library group covered the cost. The staff working with our YA volunteers were very excited about this special recognition. It was a neat tie-in to Teen Read Week! We mailed the books and certificates to our YA volunteers during that week. In all, about 75 YA volunteers received this special recognition. We have heard very positive feedback. One YA women read "Go Ask Alice" in one sitting and loved it! Submitted by Georgean C. Johnson-Coffey, Volunteer Services Manager, Allen County Public Library,

Thank You for Helping Us Grow!
For our annual volunteer recognition gift, we had the children in our after-school tutoring program, in which a majority of our volunteers work, paint terra-cotta pots. On the rim we wrote in gold paint "Thank you for helping us grow!" Inside we put a packet of flower seeds and a certificate. At the recognition (held as a part of our annual meeting) we had the children present the pots to the volunteers. The children put such care into painting the pots. They were so colorful and expressive. The volunteers said it was the best recognition gift they had ever received. Submitted by Natalie Elwell, Volunteer Coordinator, El Barrio, Inc.,

Saying Goodbye to Volunteers with a Care Package
Our volunteers are youth 15-29 years old. Many of our volunteers resign their positions to go onto school or full time work. In order to recognize these volunteers and to say "thank you" for their work during their time with us, we send them off with a care package. The items are "wrapped" in a reusable plastic container. The items within are tailored to the journey the volunteer will be pursuing. For example, one volunteer was leaving us to go to the West Coast. In her container, we included a small clay pot and forget-me-not seeds to plant in her new home, a wooden spoon to help her make nutritious meals, a scented candle to light her way in her new path, and the container itself to carry valuables in from one home to another. Writing small notes on each gift explained the meaning behind each one. All this for under $10; and her smile and appreciation was priceless. Submitted by Louise Elliott, Community Program Coordinator, YMCA-YWCA Career Contact Centre For Youth

Thanks for "Raisin" All Those Funds
I took a small box of raisins, attached a strip of magnetic tape to the back and attached a small note saying "Thanks for raisin all those funds" This was given out to our MS Super Cities Walk committee to put on their refrigerators or filing cabinets at work. Submitted by Patricia Salberg, Volunteer Resources Coordinator, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Ottawa/Carleton Chapter

Here are a few other versions of this idea:

  • We gave our county board officials bags of mixed nuts. A note was attached stating, "We would go 'nuts' without your support!" This was a great, but simple, recognition for volunteers.
  • We used "Yankee" votive candles for National Volunteer Week. We wrapped them in cellophane and tied them with a note stating ,"You light up the lives of so many!" We also used notes stating, "You lighten our load by volunteering." Our 4-H Leaders loved the candles! Submitted by Debra Hoyer-Denson, 4-H Extension Assistant, University of Illinois,

Unique Bookmarks
Use children's drawings to make a bookmark. Laminate it and include a message on the back. It's a wonderful token and also inexpensive! Submitted by Cathy Dennen, Volunteer Coordinator, Lutheran Family Services

Thank You Posters by Children Our United Way does the usual recognition dinner, certificates, plaques, personally signed letters, etc. However, our most popular recognition program are "Thank You Posters" created by children from our local agencies. These hand-drawn posters are so popular-- they hang in the main lobby of several large companies. They don't cost much to produce just some posterboard and crayons/markers. Plus, the children enjoy creating them and often create more than one. We have been doing this for five years now and it gets more popular each year. If we fall behind schedule in getting them out I often get phone calls from loyal volunteers wondering when they can expect their new poster to hang in the lobby. Submitted by Joe Delmar, Director of Marketing & Communication, United Way of Gloucester County (Southern New Jersey)

Volunteer Caring Kit
I work with a large number of volunteers on a yearly basis to help manage a 4-H Youth Development program within the county. A few years ago, I came across this volunteer caring kit and thought it was a neat recognition idea. Hope you can use it for your organizations!

  • Paper Clips: Paper clips have many uses, just like each volunteer has many talents. Paper clips are also used to hold the 4-H program together and provide guidance to youth.
  • Rubber Bands: Rubber bands represent the flexibility that all volunteers need to have. You can adapt to any different situation. As volunteers, you can also stretch your own abilities to have new opportunities.
  • Band Aids: Band aids help others and are sensitive to others feelings, just as volunteers have to be keyed-in to the feelings of those they work with.
  • Coin: This coin represents a quarter to call and ask for help and to remind you that you are not alone.
  • Paper Bill: This money calculates the contribution that volunteers make to the 4-H program through their donation of time.
  • Balloon: This balloon expands and grows as you learn from others.
  • Heart Sticker: This heart represents the ability to reach out to youth. You care about our youth and what they are doing.
  • Mint: This mint represents the fact that each of you is worth a mint. You are very special and really make a difference.
  • Lifesavers: Lifesavers represent the special contribution to the 4-H program that each of you makes and emphasized that each of us are unique and different just like the rainbow color of lifesavers and that there is a place in 4-H for everyone.
  • Hershey Kiss: This kiss represents a big thank-you from the many kids whose lives you have touched over the years. I compiled all of these items in ziploc bags and photocopied the "instructions of the caring kit" and each volunteer received a small token. Submitted by Tina Veal, Extension Assistant, Youth Development/4-H, University of Illinois McLean County Extension Unit

A Spirit Kit
This idea is similar to the 4-H Caring Kit above, but I liked it so much it is worth repeating. Our Board President just gave me this "Spirit Kit" In a Zip-Lock Bag I found a cotton ball, 5 pennies, a rubber band, a band-aid, 2 tissues, a safety pin, a balloon, and a Hershey's Hug and a Hershey's Kiss, along with this note: There may be times when we might find ourselves feeling a little "dis-spirited". This SPIRIT KIT is designed to help us all keep a focus on the small-but-so-very-important things. In your SPRIT KIT you will find:

1. A soft fuzzy cotton ball to rub when you need to remember the gentleness of the human heart.
2. A rubber band to remind you that you are flexible and can stretch to fit just about any demand or challenge.
3. A band-aid to remind you that, even though there may be times when you feel hurt for what you are trying to do, you will heal and be even stronger.
4. Two tissues, one for you and one for a colleague when you have faced a tough time together and need some mutual support.
5. A safety pin to remind you that you are bright and sharp and utterly indispensable.
6. Five pennies to remind you of the song by Danny Kaye called "Five Little Pennies". If you know the song, you will remember that one penny was to dream on, one was to wish on, one was for dancing, one was to love on. The song ends with these words, "There's just five little pennies, but with these five pennies you'll be a millionaire". How very true!
7. A balloon to celebrate your accomplishments!
8. And last but not least, Hershey's Hugs and Kisses - for when you need them! Submitted by Elliott Pitts, Coordinator of Wish Granting and Volunteers , Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine

Personal Notes from Recipients
The best one I ever heard was for an agency that serves the deaf as readers and interpreters. The volunteers didn't usually interact with the clients, since the reading was done over the radio. At the recognition event, each volunteer had a letter at his/her plate that was dictated by a listener of the show for which the volunteer read. The letter spoke about the reader and how his/her tone of voice made the listener feel and how it helped the listener to hear the piece of the newspaper that was read (or whatever). The letters were typed on special paper and framed nicely. The coordination of it was work, of course, but the recognition didn't take any time away from the event, which already had a full agenda. The volunteers reported it was the most impactful recognition they had ever received. They heard directly from their listeners and learned how important they were - personally. Submitted by Sarah Elliston, Professional Development Associate, United Way Volunteer Resource Center

Hershey Kisses--An Old Time Favorite
Because we have so many wonderful volunteers who do so much for the Center's clients, I try to have "hugs" and "kisses" to show my appreciation. These are, of course, the Hershey variety, put in a a cellophane bag (or one that is decorated with "Thank You" messages), and tied with a variety of bright curling ribbons. They aren't expensive, look very festive, and, although they're not the real thing, these hugs and kisses are enjoyed a lot! Submitted by Katherine Scoggins, Executive Director, Shepherd Center of Kingsport Another Hershey Kisses Idea A champagne glass filled with Hershey's kisses -- write on the glass "A toast to a job well done!" It looks elegant. I have used it successfully several times. Submitted by Mari Levitt Boltz, Adult Education Coordinator/AmeriCorps*VISTA member, Delaware Technical & Community College

These ideas prompted the following response from England: "Maybe it's because we're so reserved on this side of the water, but I don't think we have Hershey kisses here. Since they are, apparently, so essential a part of Volunteer Recognition, could you tell me what they are" Hershey Kisses are single pieces of chocolate drops wrapped in silver paper -- not essential but a fun touch!

On-the-Job Photos
For two months before the annual recognition event, the director of volunteers of a mental health center began to take photographs of volunteers while they were "on the job." They thought this was for p.r. purposes. At the event, each volunteer received a photo of him/herself in a matte frame imprinted with a thank you message. It certainly showed "we see you" as a volunteer! Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

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