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Ongoing and Informal Ways to Thank Volunteers

I Pledge Allegiance to the Volunteers of . . .
A great way let someone know they are appreciated is to make a pledge for them at It will a wonderful way to let someone know they are a great person, have positively impacted someone and are very much appreciated.
Submitted 3/8/2013 by Repay Someday

Stick with It!
When volunteers are discouraged, hand out sticky notes, with "Stick with it!" written on top.
Submitted 7 June 2010 by Sara Ervin

Potlucks for Staff and Volunteers
I like to hold potlucks at the office and invite volunteers to make them feel like part of the team. The volunteers are asked to bring a big appetite.
Submitted 29 March 2010 by Nazia A. Hossain

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving
This year I sent out Thanksgiving cards to my volunteers. It's a great way to show our appreciation toward the end of the year and at the beginning of the December holiday season without having to pick a religious holiday.The spirit of Thanksgiving is of course perfect for the message we're sending, and it lets our volunteers know we're thinking of them at that busy time of year.
Submitted on 14 February 2008 by Traci Lato

Let them know they are FAN-tastic
We recently sent our volunteers a pink (our campaign color) paper fan with a note, "Thank your for all of the FAN-tastic help at the kick-off". The fans were found inexpensively and are easy to mail.
Submitted on 5 July 2007 by Sally, MSABC Volusia/Flagler

Hats Off to Volunteers
Our library volunteers received varied baskets of goodies, box of chocolates, book certificates, plants etc. The staff wore hats all week and tipped them toward the volunteers as we saw them. In the library lobby we displayed a tree with the volunteer names and photos, where permitted, on paper hats. This was our first year of not having a party and spending our limited funds on presents instead. The volunteers here seemed to appreciate the silent effort to recognize them.
Submitted on 25 April 2005 by Aimee Hepler

Afternoon at the Movies
During National Volunteer Week we recognized our volunteers by taking them to the movies. We rented out the local movie theatre for an afternoon. We had our recognition awards program before the movie started down front of the theatre. After all the awards were given out we had a 15 minute intermission break. The volunteers were instructed to go to the refreshment counter and they had a bag of popcorn and a drink waiting for them. I also had small bags of chocolate treats for them. The cost for each volunteer was $9.00; much less than providing a banquet for them. They also had their choice of 2 movies. I chose ahead of time a PG and a PG-13. It was very well received and we will do it again next year.
Submitted on 2 April 2005 by Linda Bacon, CAVS, Volunteer Coordinator, IN

Recognition Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
Over the years, I've tried to come up with no- or low-cost ways to say thank you to the volunteers and staff who made my programs function effectively. Most of these were the day-to-day "thanks for helping"

I believe that recognition is one of the most important parts of working with volunteers. These have included simple yet meaningful things such as writing a brief "thanks for being an angel by helping with XYZ project" on angel-shaped note paper.

Like most administrators, I send birthday and get well cards. But I believe that treating my volunteers as part of the staff is one of the most effective ways to recognize their value. I acknowledge my volunteers by always saying hello and goodby each day, even if they work in a different part of the building. I let them know if I will be out of the office or need to leave early when they're scheduled to be in.

I also provide each volunteer with his or her own in-box. I distribute copies of appropriate memos, include volunteers in meetings and trainings when I can, and make sure each is informed of new policies, procedures, or activities in the organization.

One low-cost thank you gift that I gave was a small booklet of quotes about volunteering that I did on the computer and ran off on the copier. I received a number of calls and notes thanking me and saying how much the booklet was appreciated. I also gave these to staff at collaborative agencies as a small way to show how much I appreciated how they and their volunteers helped my program.

Recognition doesn't have to be expensive. It does have to be sincere.
Submitted 20 November 2004 by Sherry Leigh Mitchell, The Greater Kalamazoo Area Holiday Food Drive, Michigan

Online Volunteer "Notes"

There are lots of ways to use a Web site to recognize volunteers.  Thanks to Catherine Jackson for her posting on CyberVPM, directing others to the way the Walter & Connie Payton Foundation gives Web space to volunteers at  This "Notes" section not only allows volunteers to feel a part of the organization, but serves as a great introduction to the work of the Foundation for visitors to the site.

Posted 11 Aug. 2003 by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

"Pat on the Back"
Here's an idea for a very inexpensive recognition idea that should work for any type of organization. I simply drew around my hand on a plain piece of paper, printed "Here's a pat on the back for ________ for all the hard work and effort you've made here at First UU" on it, then copied it on to colored paper (2 on each page). The teens at our church helped me cut them out. We invited anyone who wished to give a public "pat on the back" to someone special to write their name on the handprint and tape it on a wall we had decorate. We had over 450 pats once we were finished. It was a very visable, but inexpensive way to recognize a large group of volunteers.
Submitted on 25May03 by Karol Haynes, Volunteer Coordinator, First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse, New York/USA

Note and Candy
Our volunteers are basically college-age students and we understand that they have busy lives with classes, tests, jobs and other activities. Every so often I like to send via mail a card with a thank you as well as some candy. I just recently sent chocolate coins and confetti to make them smile. They all appreciate this thought and thank us constantly for our recognition of them!
Submitted on 16May03 by Becky Degnon, Volunteer Coordinator, Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at the University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, United States

Volunteers - Wall of Fame!
When volunteers come into our facility, they enter into our break room where they can put their coats down and get a name tag. The most important thing a group does before they start working, is go to the Wall of Fame to find their picture. If it's a groups first time, they will remind me to make sure they will be added. The wall is completely covered with photos. It's a constant reminder of how we value and appreciate each and everyone of our 100 groups represented. Our volunteer groups come from grade school to retirees, but one thing that they have in common, getting their picture taken. Some groups will even plan out where and how they want their group photo. I use a digital camera, and print the photo onto a picture of a box, using the top part of the box to fill in the groups name and date. The box looks like one that they use to repack the donated products. The next time the volunteer group is here, they look for their picture! A picture says it all.

Submitted by Laura Fronko, Volunteer Coordinator, World Vision

Thanks Online
I found a great way to say thanks to a volunteer, friend, co-worker when you have no time. Send a thank you email through this website, (click on epraise). Click on a category of thanks, recognition or celebrations, personalize it and the company will send you a copy. It's great!

Submitted by Kim Gube, Volunteer Coordinator, American Red Cross, National Capital Chapter

Our Brightest Stars
In our facility, the Volunteer Manager and I (coordinator of Volunteer Services) worked on a bulletin board. We cut out blue stars and in them we printed each volunteer's name and, in the center of the board, we posted their pictures with a slogan that read "Volunteers Our Brightest Stars." It was a hit. The bulletin board was hard to miss and the staff and volunteers loved it!

Submitted by Mirna Alberto, Coordinator, Volunteer Services, Misericordia Health Centre, Canada

Thank You Notes to Volunteers' Workplace
Many of our volunteers have full time jobs and busy careers. We began sending letters of recognition to their places of work either directly to their superior or through the Human Resources office. These letters often find their way directly into the personnel files and in many cases reflect well on an employee to their employer. What has been really interesting is that our organization has actually received donations from companies whose employees have been our volunteers. A letter from our organization has often prompted an inquiry from a company to the employee about who we are and what we do. This method of recognition has become greatly appreciated by our volunteers.

Submitted by Christine Cooper, Volunteer Coordinator, Citizens for a Clean Caledon

Free Motivational Messages
Here's a free service to send motivational messages/cards via e-mail at Most of the messages relate to serving others.

Submitted by Steve McCurley, consultant/trainer

Honors for Volunteers and Staff
Our hospital launched a new recognition program whereby ANYONE can nominate a person for service above and beyond. As recognitions are added, staff reaches built in "levels". This program includes employees, physicians AND volunteers. Volunteers are part of program, rather than having their own separate "volunteer of the month" that may be perceived as lesser than staff programs. It is great to see their names posted on the bulletin board along with physicians and staff who are recognized!

Submitted by Marcia Ferguson, Director, Volunteer Services and Telecom, Mercy Medical Center

A Personal Note from You
It's not earth-shattering, but our volunteers really appreciate and respond to the personal notes I send out periodically. On our organization's note-card or a card especially chosen for the individual volunteer, I remind him/her how important his/her efforts are to me and the organization. I usually emphasize a recently accomplished task or project and point out how it affected our operation. When I host a volunteer group, I multiply the number of volunteers by the number of hours they've worked, then divide it all out to let them know how many (non-stop!) eight hour days it would have taken our tiny staff to complete the same volume of work. It's often quite staggering!

Submitted by Ms. De Jenkins Lambing, Program Manager, Wheelchair Recycling Project

More than a Plaque or Certificate
How can you recognize outstanding staff or volunteers without relying on the typical plaque or certificate? Try these creative ideas:

  • Attach the following note to a box of candles: "No one holds a candle to you." Send a "thought-you'd-like-to-know" letter to the volunteer's employer, acknowledging his or her positive contribution to your organization.
  • Ask volunteers or staff members to train other volunteers or staff members, to lead meetings, to give presentations, etc.
  • Forget separate luncheons for deserving staff and volunteers. Bring them together for a joint recognition lunch in their honor.
  • Send an anniversary card to volunteers or staff, highlighting their year(s) of service. Note how they made a difference in your organization over the past year.

From the Non-Profit Nuts & Bolts newsletter, August 1997

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