Ideas for how to say thank-you to volunteers and showing appreciation to everyone supporting your organization.

After dismissing docents, Hirshhorn starts new program to encourage their return, Peggy McGlone, The Washington Post, 2015

How NOT to work with volunteers.

Branding National Volunteer Week: Whose Week Is It Anyway?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2014
Celebrate Collective Accomplishments, Not Volunteered Time, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
End-of-Year Reports Can Illuminate Volunteer Achievements, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Enough Formal Banquets! Let's Transform Recognition Events, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Give Volunteers a Voice, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
The Giving of Thanks, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
I'll Never Understand Why Executives Still Don't Understand, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
Introducing #ThankQThursday, 2010
an initiative to recognize volunteers through Twitter, started by i-volunteer in the UK
The Just-a-Volunteer Syndrome, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
Making Ongoing Volunteering Valued and Visible, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
A Medal for Volunteer Service - How to Measure Success?, Rob Jackson, Energize Hot Topic, 2002
Media Blitz vs. Media Noise: What Are We Trying to Accomplish?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
National Volunteer Week: Does Anyone Care?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
Pictures, Pictures, Pictures, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
Present Recognition in Person, Bill Wittich, Knowledge Transfer Publishing, 2003
A Proposal for IYV2001: The Look Back to Look Ahead Project, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
The Radio Hour, Arlene Grubbs and Evelyn Levine, Energize, Inc, 1992
Recognising Employee Volunteers, Lisa Ramrayka, National Centre for Volunteering., 2001
Recognizing Volunteers, Mary V. Merrill, 2005
Recognizing Volunteers, Jeanne H. Bradner, Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today
Some Truths Revealed about Nametags, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Stop Volunteers from Being Their Own Worst Enemies, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
The Twelve Days of Christmas, Lynnette Younggren and Debra Sikanas, The Joy of Recognition: Designing and Implementing a Successful Recognition Program, Baudville, 2000
Volunteers as Beta Testers, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
Way to Go: Ideas for Volunteer Recognition, and Leadership Development, Louisiana State University, 4-H Volunteer
What Did You and Volunteers Do Well this Year?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2014
What Leaders of Volunteers Can DO to Gain Executive Attention, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
When Recognition Isn't Enough, Susan J. Ellis, Appeared as an "On Volunteers" column in The NonProfit Times
When Saying Thanks Isn't Helpful, Wendi Hammond, 2013
Why Be Boring When You Can Celebrate in So Many Ways?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2005
Why Do We Love Volunteer Satisfaction Surveys?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Words Cannot Express, Laura Biggs
Working Together to Recognize Volunteers…and More, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2014
The World According to Volunteer Experience, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2002

Volunteer Canada's report on "How do Canadians want to be recognized for their volunteer contributions?"

, 2013, pp. 10

Join In (UK)'s innovative research into "the hidden value of sport volunteers, going beyond cost to measure the true value they create – through participation, wellbeing, trust and community."  The report has been published on 

, 2014, pp. 32

Philanthropic Trends Quarterly is produced by KCI in Canada. This issue is entirely focused on recognition of donors.  While mainly about financial giving, volunteers are included and many of the ideas are important for volunteer recognition, too. Also available in French.

, 2012, pp. 8

Energize, Inc. encourages all  efforts by organizations and communities to celebrate volunteers today by showcasing them as the current step in a continuum of volunteer action from the past and therefore the next step to future service. This is a great way to recognize volunteers and educate the public about their importance. This guide gives you great ideas for creating a volunteer history project of your own -- plus real-life examples from colleagues.

, 2014, pp. 13
Baudville Recognition Resource Center

Free articles and ideas on recognition (for both volunteers and paid staff) from this recognition gifts company.

International Volunteer Day (5 December)

Information about the United Nations-sponsored international day to celebrate volunteers, including a toolkit, media materials, sample project ideas.

My Thank You Site

A personal site from someone named Christy Murphy, in which she gives all sorts of tips and links about saying thank you in general, but with some creative ideas.


Commercial party planning site with many free resources for events and saying thank you in many ways. Especially see the free digital thank you cards.

Scouting Web Awards and Thanks

Many recognition ideas from the Girl Scouts.

Thank You Letters Resources

Many tips on the art of saying thank you -- focused on money donors, but equally relevant to time donors.

Volunteer Recognition Tool

Volunteer Canada has created (2014) this "Volunteer Recognition Tool" to  help volunteer managers plan meaningful recognition activities. Volunteers take the quiz to find out what their language of recognition is, and then share the results with their manager. Available in English and French.  Read more about the concept here.

World Volunteer Web

As a follow up to the International Year of Volunteers 2001, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) has created a comprehensive Web site offering continuing news of worldwide volunteer efforts, including government actions, research reports, and links to international volunteer resources.

Print and e-Books in Our Store

77 Ways to Recognize Volunteers

An idea-a-page to show real appreciation for volunteers.

Book cover

A compendium of the best techniques for leading volunteer engagement, proven to work in a myriad of settings.

Book cover

Examines the art of keeping volunteers productively connected to the organization including how to enhance volunteer motivation, avoid volunteer burnout, get beyond short-term commitments, and more.

book cover image

Understand the concept and practices of virtual volunteering and integrate online service successfully into your overall volunteer involvement strategy.

Recognizing Volunteers and Paid Staff

Ten keys to recognizing volunteers, ends with a list of lots and lots of actions you can take to say thank you.

Things We Love about Volunteers

Twenty-five color cartoons that celebrate the commitment and compassion of volunteers.

Helps salaried and volunteer staff appreciate the significance of meaningful recognition and to generate creative formal and informal ways to acknowledge volunteers and staff.

Volunteer Recognition Skit Kit

Have fun at your volunteer recognition events! Seven original skits complete with instructions, complete scripts, song words, and ideas for adaptation.

Banquets and Parties with a Twist

"A World of Thanks"
Submitted by Jayne Rice

"A World of Thanks" was the theme for our volunteer dinner last year. I ordered globe balloons that we filled with helium and tied to logoed mugs and used those for table centerpieces and door prizes. I filled the mugs with fortune cookies and swiss chocolate. The dinner buffet featured foods that represented different countries: a stir fry bar, an Italian pasta bar,an American barbeque station and French dessert samples complete with an Eifel Tower. For personal favors I found molded chocolate in the shape of a globe. For entertainment, I had a high school teacher present a travelog slide program of her recent trip overseas. When we presented awards I recognized our volunteers "World Class" service to our guests. Our volunteer of the year was presented with items made in other countries. Many volunteers said it was the best meal and program we had ever had.

The ABC's of Volunteerism
Submitted by Jayne Rice, Honeywell Center

The first volunteer recognition dinner I planned had the theme of 'The ABC's of Volunteerism' (Appreciation, Benevolence, Chocolate!) I had a chalkboard in the room with the ABC's written on it and an apple drawn on with chalk. Used as centerpieces on the tables were small school slates, a wooden ruler, pencils, and bottles of glue and crayons. At each place setting were two pieces of chocolate candy--a Hershey Kiss and a Hershey Hug. I told the volunteers that 'A' stood for the Appreciation we felt for their wonderful service; 'B' represented Benevolence (an inclination to do charitable or kind acts--what they gave with their donation of time); and 'C' represented Chocolate, the sweetness of their contributions and we were giving them a hug and a kiss. 

With a theme of ABC's and school, I told the volunteers their assignment for the evening was a quiz entitled 'Getting To Know You'. I gave them 10 minutes of Mix and Mingle time to gather signatures from fellow volunteers to fill in the spaces on their quizzes. The quiz had 20 items listed and each person had to find someone an only child, had a fried egg for breakfast this morning, is allergic to penicillin, volunteers for more than three organizations, was born in the same month as you, uses the same brand of deodorant as you, has been a volunteer for more than 10 years, likes grits and fried okra, has had their picture on the front page of a newspaper, always twists an Oreo apart and eats the icing first, etc, etc, etc. 

It was a bit zany, but was a good ice breaker and many didn't want to stop when I said time was up. I gave a shiny red apple to the volunteer who had the most lines filled in. Volunteers were then recognized and thanked for their valued gift of time in serving others. One volunteer's name was drawn to receive our grand prize of the evening--'a brand new washer and dryer' (washcloth and towel!). The evening was lighthearted and fun for the group. 

A Gold Medal Luncheon
Submitted by Erin S.

This year we are hosting an Olympic themed volunteer luncheon: GCMH Volunteers Go for the Gold. Each table at the luncheon will be decorated for a different country. Volunteers will be treated to a dessert from the country of the table they choose.

A Gold Medal Luncheon
Submitted by Erin S

This year we are hosting an Olympic themed volunteer luncheon: GCMH Volunteers Go for the Gold. Each table at the luncheon will be decorated for a different country. Volunteers will be treated to a dessert from the country of the table they choose.

An Important Piece
Submitted by Anna Borders

Every year I put together a breakfast banquet during Sunday School in October for our volunteer Sunday School teachers. Last year my theme was "An Important Piece." I made silk corsages with a puzzle piece glued on, decorated the tables with candles and scattered puzzle pieces, and for a recognition gift, gave each teacher a hand-decorated photo frame from the dollar store with antique buttons and puzzle pieces.

Kudos Korner
Submitted by Victoria Evangelista, Rocky Mountain PBS

Our Kudos Korner is one of the most prominent and inexpensive ways for which we recognize staff and volunteers. These forms are available at each event and are filled out by someone who notices another's outstanding achievement. Some include: "Making Festival a joy to volunteer for," "Consistently being available for any type of work," "Smiling on the phone on the busiest day of Auction." Kudos are displayed at the event and are listed in our quarterly volunteer newsletter.

No one is left out of the left/right game. Right?
Submitted by Susan Smith

Here's the game we played at our volunteer recognition luncheon this year to see who would get the centerpiece at each table. It was modified from another left/right story that I saw somewhere but I have no idea who the original author was.

The idea is that someone from each table is given a small item to hold before you start reading the story. Then, each time you say the word left, the item is passed from the person holding it to the person on his/her left. When you say the word right, the item is passed from the person holding it to the right. Whoever is holding it at the end of the story goes home with the centerpiece. Here's the story:

Oh no, I thought. I looked right at the calendar and realized that there were only a few months left until it would be National Volunteer week, which also meant that the volunteer luncheon was right around the corner. There were so many things to do! And since I like everything to be done just right, I was left with no choice but to get cracking. I knew I could not delay. I had to get right to it!

I had to come up with a theme so, right away I grabbed some of my party planning magazines and starting searching. What theme was left after so many years? I needed the right inspiration and I needed it fast. And then, it came to me, it was like it struck me right between the eyes. I called a good friend, Nancy Leftwich, and ran my idea past her. She said: You're right on the money. You've chosen a great theme! So, once I had the theme, I started to write a list of everything else that needed to be done. Decorations, program, entertainment, gifts, and speech, to name but a few. Even this left/right game. Lots to do, right? I mean, I didn't want to be a nervous wreck for the next couple of months worrying that something important would be left out or left to chance.

Right off I went to my file cabinet to check to see if there was anything left from last year that could be used. And right away I realized there was not much left. It was time to search for the right items to make this luncheon just perfect. No stone would be left unturned in my quest to make it perfect for my special volunteers.

When it was time to select the right invitations and make sure that the rightpeople, that is the right volunteers and the right paid staff members were invited and that no one was left out, I went right to the computer and ran a list. When I was almost finished addressing the invitations, I realized that I had left June Cartwright off the list. How could I have forgotten her? I rightfully addressed her envelope right that minute.

A month or so later, I finally finished with all the planning and was left with a feeling of great accomplishment and pleasure. Nancy Leftwich called the night rightbefore the luncheon wanting to know if I was ready. I told her there was nothing leftto do. Everything got done right on time! And, I told her, if I'm really as good at planning as I think I am, there will be nothing left over at the end of the luncheon. (although I'm hoping there's some lunch leftovers so I can take my lunch home for dinner). So now I'm left with nothing to do but get your feedback. It was a great luncheon that has left a lasting impression on you and there was nothing missing orleft out. Right?

Old Time Pizza
Submitted by Susie Kapelovitz

Each year for volunteer week, we plan an event to thank our volunteers, this year we are having a pizza party with our facility decorated like an old time pizza resturant. "Our Volunteers are Supreme" will be the theme, four flavors of pizza, sodas, coffee and hand dipped ice cream with an assortment of toppings. We are having two young boys play accordian music for intertainment, drawing for 40 door prises and giving each guest a round pizza cutter as a Thank you gift. Each year we have an event and each year the volunteers talk about it for the rest of the year.

P.S. We Love You!
Submitted by Colette Barth

Our Auxiliary Appreciation Luncheon was themed "P.S. (name of your organization Loves You." I waited for the after Valentine Day Sales, getting lots of Valentine decorations, and saved them until this year. Used glittered hearts for walls, placed garland down middle of tables, placed lotions and body spray in Valentine gift bags (which I also got "on sale" and saved til the event). Then tied blue, red and pink foil balloon hearts to the gift bags which were used as centerpieces, and were later used as door prizes. Entertainment was a local musician who sang love songs throughout dinner. Of course the meal had to have chocolate dessert.

A Social Tea with a Special Guest
Submitted by Lucy Parasiliti

This year we decided to have a social tea for our volunteers. Our recreation staff will be dressed in blue and white to celebrate this years colour theme. We are serving different kinds of tea, along with tea sandwiches, salads, and to top it all off we are serving ice cream cake. What a treat it will be for the recreation staff to see our volunteers in a different "activity" as we usually see them working with our residents. What an fun time for our volunteers. We will end the celebration by offering entertainment with "Elvis" what a cad he is smoozing with the audience. I must say this is going to be a great event.

Southern Hospitality
Submitted by Hannah

As a new southern-born volunteer coordinator at a historic site in Pennsylvania, I felt it was important to connect with my volunteers and make them feel comfortable with me. So for our recognition event this year, I held a "Southern Comfort" reception which included southern-themed decor, homemade southern desserts, sweet tea, even hand-cranked ice cream! Favors were bandanas and beautiful folding fans (period correct so they can use them on tour!). This way we could all have a good laugh (they love the accent), good food, and they can get to know me while still having a fun time.

A Special Holiday Party
Submitted by Alicia Armstrong

I started a tradition last year of having our Volunteer Christmas party in our home and giving out plaques and Christmas presents to our volunteers. They get to met other volunteers that work in different departments and different shifts and we have Administration come and present plaques, also department heads that give a word of appreciation. It is a festive affair and everyone brings dessert, We also have a formal recognition during National Volunteer Week but the volunteers do not get the chance to really talk to each other because time is limited for everyone. I enjoy it because I love to decorate for my favorite season!

Sundaes on Wednesday
Submitted by Becki Swindell

For volunteer appreciation week this year I am planning an ice cream sundae party at a local ice cream parlor. The invitation will say...Sundaes on Wednesday...You are important to us every day of the week! It will be a "drop by" function and I'll be there to treat them to an ice cream sundae!

This Luncheon is for the Birds!
Submitted by Kathleen Gallagher

We have our recongnition luncheon in February as that doesn't seem to be a busy month. I wanted to give my volunteers something they would use. Most of my volunteers don't need another item to dust. I went to a Wild Bird Center and bought everyone a bird feeder and feed to go inside. They loved it and I asked that everytime they feed the birds they think of those they serve and how they feed there hearts by giving their time. It was fantastic!

This Luncheon is for the Birds!
Submitted by Kathleen Gallagher

We have our recongnition luncheon in February as that doesn't seem to be a busy month. I wanted to give my volunteers something they would use. Most of my volunteers don't need another item to dust. I went to a Wild Bird Center and bought everyone a bird feeder and feed to go inside. They loved it and I asked that everytime they feed the birds they think of those they serve and how they feed there hearts by giving their time. It was fantastic!

A Volunteer Thanksgiving
Submitted by Laura Dilts

"Thanks for giving your time and talents" We used this theme this fall and held our volunteer banquet at a colonial venue serving the lunch portion of their turkey dinner. Our favor was an orange and brown, tumbler with cornucopia design.

A Volunteer Thanksgiving
Submitted by Laura Dilts

"Thanks for giving your time and talents" We used this theme this fall and held our volunteer banquet at a colonial venue serving the lunch portion of their turkey dinner. Our favor was an orange and brown, tumbler with cornucopia design.

Volunteers Make a World of Difference
Submitted by Maria Strmsek

We usually set up a theme for each year so that we might set our recognition luncheon and our small gifts for the volunteers around the theme. This year we have decided the them should be, "Volunteers Make a World of Difference." We're inviting the volunteers to dress in their dress of heritage to blend diversity into our program.

Winter WONDERland
Submitted by Kimberly Moore

For our annual Cheers for Volunteers Dinner, our theme was "Our WONDERful Volunteers." We turned our multi-purpose room in the museum into a winter wonderland filled with fake snow, icicle displays, a snowman and other holiday-themed decor. We had a photographer on site that took pictures of each of the volunteers and placed them in a keepsake frame with our logo as their special gift. I had snowglobes with an image of the museum inside created and we contacted a number of local businesses for gift donations like gift cards, mugs, tickets, etc. We even received items from the local sports teams to use as giveaways. Finally, I had a chocolatier make chocolate-covered apples for each volunteer and they also received a personalized, dated Christmas ornament. Starting early with the planning allowed me to get several items donated which made me come about 25% under budget. I have already started for this year's event.

"A Year to Celebrate" Recognition Event
Submitted by Tammy Nodland

I themed our annual event as a Birthday Party for all the volunteers, I set up twelve tables, each themed for a month of the year. The volunteers were seated at the table for their birthday month. January was a New Year's theme, February was Valentine's Day, September was "Back to School" with books and rulers, and so on. The gift bag for each table fit the month using colored lunch sacks and appropriate treats or small items in each one. I ordered birthday items from Oriental Trading Company including rubber duckies with appropriate themes or birthday party hats on them. I hired a clown to pose for pix with the 'birthday kids' and she also provided wands, balloon hats and balloon animals that she created. Photos were taken in front of a 6 foot blow-up birthday cake also ordered from Oriental Trading. Of course there was a birthday cake and cupcakes for dessert! This event was inexpensive because of advance planning and being able to purchase the tablecloths, holdiay or seasonal napkins and table decorations on clearance. I also brought decorations from my own home to use, too. It was great to see the volunteers running around to each table to look at them and check out other people's birthday bags!

Angelic Celebration
Submitted by Tammy Chambers

I work as an educational assistant at a public school. We wanted to acknowledge the work from our volunteers. I held a volunteer celebration with the theme "Volunteers are...our Everyday Angels." It was all angel-themed--even the door prizes! I used cotton batting as clouds, blue table cloths as the sky, and purchased small angel things from the dollar store for each table. It was a POPULAR theme and a hit!

Submitted by Diana Case, Mercy Health Partners

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.

Appreciation Stations
Submitted by Samantha DeRooy

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.

Beach Party
Submitted by Katherine Scoggins, Shepherd Center of Kingsport , TN, USA

We used a beach party theme for our annual meeting and decorated beach pails with the names of each out-going board member, along with the agency's name. The we filled them with bright, inexpensive sunglasses, candy bars, bottles of bubbles, and a water gun with a note that said "Thanks for all your hard work! Now it's time to play!"

Books Make Themes Memorable
Submitted by Barbara Branham

Our volunteer rescue squad was established in 1940, but just last year we began using a "theme" to spice up our annual Banquet & Installation of Officers. The theme that year was "Volunteering." I ordered 200 copies of "Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul" at the non-profit cost directly from the publisher, and a local business was kind enough to fund this purchase. Each squad member and guest received a book, and the keynote speech was geared around volunteering. This was a hit! This year our theme was "Mentoring to Make a Difference," and this year's book was "Mentor: The Kid & the CEO" (the purchase funded once again by a local business.) Tables were decorated with candle-lit hurricane lamps, surrounded by rings of live greenery and fresh mint sprigs for the centerpiece--the "Mentor" theme smelled wonderful! We also spread Andes' mints around the centerpieces. Our speakers both gave outstanding speeches about their personal mentoring experiences and encouraged everyone to become a mentor, whether in a volunteer agency, in a school, at home, etc. The gift of a book as a memento makes our event's message/theme more personal and remembered. Plus we encourage our members and guests to "pay it forward" by giving their book to someone else after they've read it.

Bright Light of Thanks
Submitted by Beth

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. 

Calculators with Special Message
Submitted by Karla Stovall

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.

Casual Barbecue Offers Time for the Personal Touch
Submitted by Sarah Varick

For our Volunteer Appreciation event, we had a fun and casual BBQ. We hired a great Marimba band that added a lively vibe to the BBQ. The band invited audience participation so people could try out the marimba or congos, dance, or just listen. We had door prizes (gift cards to local restaurants, movie theaters, bookstores, and coffee cards, as well as some nice wine from local vineyards.) We did not include a formal recognition ceremony due to feedback we had received from volunteers at previous events. We felt it was important to recognize EVERY volunteer rather than single people out. So we presented the awards to them individually. It really worked out well. No one felt left out if they didn't receive a reward because we all expressed our appreciation to them personally. Staff and volunteers really had time to mingle and get to know each other better. We had done formal banquets in the past - but everyone loved the relaxed and fun atmosphere so we will definitely do this again!

Court Capers
Submitted by Debra Cheek, Moffitt Cancer Center

One of the most unique volunteer recognition events I attended was "Court Capers". Volunteers were arrested for "giving freely of their time, talents, and treasures." The invitation was a warrant for their arrest, the event took place in a court room. There was a judge, a jury (of staff), a police officer (with a wonderful voice who sang a personalized song to the tune of "Thanks for the memories") and a baliff who sang "Here come the judge - Here come the judge". There were a few outstanding volunteers who were asked to stand and the volunteer coordinator (in the witness stand) would state how they were guilty of the crime. The jury then voted "guilty" and the judge sentenced them to a free dinner with door prizes. (The banquet room was right next door decorated with police hats, badges, etc. on the tables.) It was very different but very comical and enjoyable.

A Cover Worthy Idea!
Submitted by Sandra Drechsel

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.

Customized Cookbooks
Submitted by Deborah Jones-Miller

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!

Day of Pampering
Submitted by Sandy Fleck

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.

A Different Slant on Valentine's Day
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Valentine's Day (February 14) frequently elicits attention to volunteers in cloyingly sweet ways. Some organizations post "we love our volunteers" posters or ask the staff to wear badges with that message. If this isn't your style or the image you seek, why not make use of Valentine's Day to do other things to draw attention to volunteering?

Our Book Blog suggests the option of running a Volunteer Speed Matching event for singles patterned on speed dating, as explained in A Toolkit for Volunteer Speed Matching by Volunteer Centre Dacorum in England.

Or you can focus on how volunteering demonstrates the love of volunteers for your cause. Here are a few ideas:
  • Hang some large sheets of newsprint in a public spot headed, What We Love Around Here -- you can even use red hearts and other Valentine's Day decorations. Supply markers and let everyone -- volunteers, paid staff, even clients -- add to the list of praises.
  • Do the same thing online, maybe using a Facebook account or accumulating tweets on Twitter.
  • Put out some cookies or chocolate on Valentine's Day, along with cards asking volunteers to identify what they most love about sharing their time and talent with your organization. Use their statements throughout the year in recruitment campaigns, presentations to funders, and at the annual recognition event.
  • Use the opportunity to thank employees. Send a Valentine's Day card to every member of staff (especially those in clerical, maintenance, and other roles that rarely receive formal communications) from volunteers. In their own handwriting, ask volunteers to identify something this paid staff member has done in the past year that's worthy of applause or a hug. Give it! (You can also have staff send similar valentines to volunteers -- the key is to specify why they are loved individually, rather than a general one-size-fits-all thank you.)
  • Depending on your type of service, you might offer clients a chance to send valentines to paid staff and/or volunteers (or, for that matter, to anyone they choose). Provide or make cards, ask volunteers to help the clients write what they wish, and send them out, and you provide an extra-touch service coordinated by the volunteer office.

If you do something out of the ordinary in your organization for Valentine's Day, please share it and we'll post it on the Energize site. Send your e-mails to

Digital Photo of Volunteer
Submitted by Andy Fryar, Lyell McEwin Regional Volunteers Inc. , Adelaide, South Australia

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!

Discount Card
Submitted by LouAnne Smith, Doctors Hospital of Dallas

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!

Dollar Store
Submitted by Rachelle

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 by Michele D, COVENANT Professional Services

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.

An Easy Meal on a Busy Night
Submitted by Tracy Lindsay

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.

The Essential Piece
Submitted by Jayne Rice, Honeywell Center

This was the title of our volunteer recognition dinner this year to celebrate the connection our volunteers have to our organization and the contribution they make to our business. Banquet tables were decorated with white table cloths and black napkins. Scattered in the center of the table were pieces of jigsaw puzzles that I had gotten at a local thrift store. Favors were gold puzzle piece pins along with ink pens from our business that were used to fill out the crossword puzzles at each place setting. I had created the puzzle using trivia clues about our business and its founder. The puzzles were easy to create using the help of a free website for making personalized puzzles. During the recognition I had asked department leaders to briefly talk about the support their departments receive from our volunteer staff.

Our volunteer of the year (the one who donates the most hours during the year) received a jigsaw puzzle made from a picture of our facility.

A Feather in Your Cap
Submitted by Laura Dilts, Girl Scouts of Montachusett, Council, Inc.

Last year for our Annual Meeting and Recognitions Dinner we used the theme "put a feather in your caps ". On each table we made top hats out of construction paper with fabric bows, and under the hats there was a fabric square to match the bow on that particular hat. We had feathers in each hat. The following items were weaved into our presentation throughout the evening. 1) "The Recognition Committee would also like to let everyone one to know that we are presenting pins for Membership Milestones for 25 years and up. It has been a custom of many different groups of people all over the world, including Native Americans, to put a feather in the headgear of the warrior for each enemy defeated in battle. So we honor our volunteers for their victories large and small in service to the girls of Montachusett Council." 2) We have over ___ volunteers who need to put a "feather in their cap" for helping girls reach their dreams.

For Volunteers in the Arts
Submitted by Ann Stafford, Austin (TX) Public Library

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?

Four Goals
Submitted by Dee Martin , Bedford, NH

When I plan my yearly Volunteer Recognition Breakfast I keep four points in mind that must happen: 1.Educate 2. Inspire 3. Recognize 4.Have fun. Each year this event is the most successful!

Framed Photographs
Submitted by Cathy Theodore, Brother to Brother International

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.

Framed Quotes
Submitted by Renee Richie, Simpson Housing Services

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.

Gift Ideas
Submitted by Danielle Hamilton

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."
Goals for Successful Recognition Event
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

This isn't a success story but rather a way to look at "success." I think there ought to be SEVERAL goals for a "successful" recognition event, especially since we are busy people and can't afford for our time to be spent on an activity that accomplishes only one thing! So, how about these for a start? A successful recognition event needs to:

    1. Say thank you for anything and everything volunteered to the organization during the past year (the organization's obligation).
    2. Have everyone volunteering the above feel appreciated (the volunteers' perspective).
    3. Recommit (re-enthuse) volunteers to the coming year of work and, potentially, to recruit new volunteers for vacant positions.
    4. Educate everyone attending--frontline volunteers, paid staff, executives, board-level volunteers--about the scope, meaning and value of volunteer services to the organization, and about the diversity and skills of who volunteers.
    5. Acknowledge the contributions of (some) paid staff supervisors to the success of volunteers.
    6. Report the outcomes of volunteer effort (not just to proclaim the hours spent in effort).
    7. Challenge all volunteers through recognition of the special accomplishments of a selected few.
    8. Gain publicity for the organization and for the volunteer program.
    9. Allow volunteers a chance to have fun and meet one another (something they do otherwise only with people on their shift).
    10. Gain respect for the volunteer program and the director of it.
Submitted by Diane L. Hennessy, South Florida Science Museum , Florida - USA

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!

Good Fortune
Submitted by Eva Treuer

At our annual dinner this year we went with the theme "Volunteers: Our Good Fortune Since 1972!” I was able to order fortune cookies with personalized messages, and 1/2 pint takeout boxes from Fancy Fortune Cookies. Each volunteer received a box with two cookies (two different messages), a sticker with our logo and theme, and some ribbon to add a little color. I would definitely recommend Fancy Fortunes -- they have reasonable prices, allow you to create five free messages per order, and are very easy to work with!  Plus, being able to track my order on-line was a great stress reliever.

Hand-made Cards
Submitted by Cindy Fairs, Okanagan Volunteer Management Services

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!

Hands-On Thanks
Submitted by Joan E. Thompson

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.)

Hats Off To You
Submitted by Beverley Penver

The Volunteer Services Department paid tribute to our valuable volunteers by honoring them at our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast -- “Hats Off To You” -- April 4, 2006. Crazy hats decorated by the West Palm Beach Specialized Adult Day Center were suspended from the ceiling, while beautiful orchids in black top hats complemented the theme. Our volunteers were arrayed in decorated hats to add to the festivities, and a gift certificate was awarded for the best decorated hat. We feasted on strawberry crepes topped with cream, and lox and bagels while viewing highlights of volunteers over the past year.

Hershey Kisses--An Old Time Favorite
Submitted by Mari Levitt Boltz, Delaware Technical & Community College , Delaware, USA

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.

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!

Ice Cream Sundaes Show How Volunteers Help a Program
Submitted by Teresa Miller Keck

I work for a Community Action Agency and we rely on volunteers for everything from filing to riding school buses. We celebrated an event two weeks ago, where each of the program directors discussed how volunteers helped to run the programs. While each director talked, their staff helped to build brownie sundaes. One program started with the foundation (plates), the next put on the brownies, then the whipped topping, cherries and nuts until we had 150 sundaes. It symbolized visually how our volunteers affect each part of our organization and by working together we can accomplish great things! It was very well received and the brownies even tasted great!

Invitations Colored by Kindergarten Students
Submitted by Ruth Anne Bleakney, Milford Senior Center

We were looking for a way to invite our volunteers to our annual Volunteer Recognition. We wanted something special but not expensive. We enlarged some graphics with simple designs from our computer. We used the computer and copy machine to put the text on the invitation with "colored Mrs.....'s kindergarten class" at the bottom. They were then sent to the schools to be colored by the children and then they were mailed to the volunteers. They were a huge hit and now our volunteers look forward to receiving one each year.

Submitted by Kristyna Williams

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!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Submitted by Bonnie Bordelon

In Louisiana, food is everything to my volunteers. Each year I throw a crawfish boil for my annual volunteer recognition party. I'm afraid if I decided to serve something different, there would be a riot because everybody looks forward to the traditional fare. This year additional foods have been added to recognize our culture -- jambalaya and fried catfish. We don't have a special theme other than Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!). I usually have around 150 volunteers show up, which includes our volunteer Board members. It gives everyone the opportunity to socialize in a relaxed enviroment.

"Leader Camp Survival Kits"
Submitted by Diane Goard

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 by Sarah Pinder

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.

Little Things Mean a Lot
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

We're coming to the end of the September-November conference "season" (everyone takes a break for the end-of-year holidays), and I've been reflecting on what separates a successful conference or training event from one that misses the mark. Of course it is vital to have expert, energetic speakers, but the real key is attention to detail. Whether you are planning a big conference, a local workshop, or even an in-house meeting, give consideration to:

Finding Everything

  • Accurate instructions for getting to the meeting site, with information on where to park or what public transportation is nearby, whether the venue has security precautions such as requiring ID or sign in, etc.
  • A floor plan on which the room names or numbers match whatever is shown on program materials indicating what takes place where.
  • If meals are not provided, suggestions for nearby places to have a meal or buy take-out.
  • If meals are included, note whether these are unstructured opportunities for talking with other participants, structured group exercises, or non-interactive while a speaker presents.
  • Include two check boxes on the registration or RSVP form that allow each participant to give permission 1) for his or her e-mail address to be shared with everyone else, and 2) for her or his photograph to be taken during the session and used in event-related reports or publicity. Then create and distribute a name and e-mail list - and take lots of photos!

Getting Acquainted

  • Despite the universality of nametags at group events, it is dismaying how few session organizers give much thought to them as a tool for exchange. The world's expert on nametags, Scott Ginsburg, has written many wonderful (and funny) things about these "front porch" discussion starters on his Web site at One example: Nine Ways to Spice Up Your Nametag for More Engaging Conversation. At a minimum, nametags should:
    • Have everyone's first name written large enough to see from at least 10-15 feet away.
    • Be affixed high enough on the body to be easily readable and not continually flipping over (or else put the name on both sides).
    • Offer some identifying information other than name to jumpstart an initial conversation.
  • Plan something for people to do between arriving and the start of the meeting/event that is interesting and also encourages talking. A few ideas:
    • Open the exhibit area early
    • Provide coffee along with tables and chairs
    • Ask for a photo and one-paragraph bio from every participant and post these alphabetically along the wall (or cluster them under relevant headings). Leave some space around the pictures for sticky notes and invite people to write short messages to anyone they hope to meet in person throughout the event. (Anyone finding such a note can immediately "check out" the writer on the same wall.)
    • Recruit and train hospitality volunteers who proactively introduce new arrivals to a few other people (without being pushy, of course).
    • Hang some interesting, emotional, or funny photographs and run a silent caption contest, giving people cards on which to write their ideas and their names, then tack or tape them under the picture.
  • Alternate between letting people go or sit wherever they want and assigning them to be with a new group of colleagues. This can be done for breakout sessions, meal tables, or field trips. It's another way to use nametags, since the group assignments can be noted by colored dots or numbers in one corner of the tag. Note that even a small meeting can include some breaks for "change your seats" - this may be initially dismaying to some people, but ultimately introduces everyone.

Mental Preparation

  • When acknowledging registration, include something that will help participants to come to the event with the right mindset. This might be a set of questions, relevant data, motivational quotations, or anything else that provides immediate common ground. It could be links to articles or reports available online that offer useful background reading.
  • Rather than an "agenda" that simply shows the flow of time during the day, include bullet points under each agenda item with questions that need to be discussed or decided during that time slot or that summarize pro and con arguments on the topic.
  • Allow time before adjournment for everyone to reflect on what was discussed or learned and what next steps they each want to take upon returning home.
Magic of Volunteering
Submitted by Lynn Guerra, Holy Family Institute , Pennsylvania

A few years ago you may remember that a popular theme for volunteer recognition was "The Magic of Volunteers". To use the theme in decorating we bought black plastic top hats and fanned red, black and white paper out of them. We always need to name the groups of children and the volunteers to be seated at a particular table. The table markers were in the shape of a white-gloved hand where the name was written and from the hand came a magic wand. Red table clothes and black placemats set off the room. This was one of my favorites.

Magical Moment
Submitted by Traci Lato

"Celebrate the Magic of Volunteering" was the theme to our 2007 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. I'm sure it wasn't my original idea, so THANK YOU to whomever shared it! Our colors were red, silver and black with stars as accents, we made centerpieces out of top hats with curling ribbon, onion grass and crumpled foil picks (they looked great!), had star-shaped memo holders as favors, and our entertainment was a magician! It was a hit!

Submitted by Susan, RSVP , Arkansas

Any state bordering Louisiana seems to celebrate Mardi Gras--so for my volunteer recognition lunch we did a Mardi Gras theme. This is fabulously inexpensive--beads, coins and masks are really cheap decorations that can be bought in bulk on-line. I made centerpieces by planting pansys (which are conveniently Mardi Gras colored) in hand-painted green and purple terra cotta pots (which took me only one afternoon to do) and then displaying coins and masks on the tables. Each volunteer got beads as they walked in the door and we had zydeco music playing in the background. The volunteers loved it! We "raffled" off the centerpieces to a person at each table by asking an organization-related trivia question to each group. The person with the closest answer took home the planter. This helped the volunteers learn about our nation-wide program as well as how important their service is to our organization. For gifts, I took iron-on transfers and placed a volunteer related design on tote bags bought in bulk inexpensively. We filled these bags with donated goodies from area merchants (e.g. note pads from a printing company, pens and keychains from an insurance company and sweets donated by a distributor). Hand-making things really doesn't take that much time and can save you tons of money. I also think the volunteers were touched by the hard work put in to recognizing them.

May 2005 Hot Topic provides ideas
Submitted by

The topic of banquets was addressed in our May 2005 hot topic, visit the responses to receive additional ideas.


Memory Keepsake CD
Submitted by Alaa El Ghatit

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 and we have special pricing for volunteer organizations.  I'm the owner and you can contact me for more information. 

"Mmmm, Mmmm, Good"
Submitted by Cindy Blackstone, The Janet Pomeroy Center , San Francisco

Our theme was based around the Cambpell's soup theme. We purchased red and white coffee mugs printed to look like a soup can, with the title of our agency at top, and "Cream of Volunteer Soup" printed on the front, with special directions for volunteer use on the side. We served two different types of soup with our dinner, placed soup cans on the tables with red and white carnations, had red napkins and white table cloths, and one of our staff made a life size soup can for the stage. We photocopied pictures from the Campbell's Soup web page, our participants colored them and decorated our walls. Our volunteers receiving special recognition received a copy of the book, Chicken Soup for the Volunteer Soul.

Submitted by Mona, Wired Woman Society

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

My Volunteer Valentine
Submitted by Liz Mirzaian, Glendale Adventist Medical Center , California

We host several recognition events each year, but one of the favorites is our annual "My Volunteer Valentine" Tea Party which began last year. This year, I started out by sending nomination forms to all staff in the medical center asking them to submit the name of a volunteer who exemplifies extraordinary caring and commitment, along with a brief explanation of why this person is deserving of this "Volunteer Valentine" honor. I designed the invitation on Microsoft Publisher, and sent it to all our volunteers, as well as to our Hospital Executive Team, and everyone who nominated a volunteer. We hosted the event in our main auditorium, complete with assorted finger sandwiches and mini desserts, as well as several types of hot and cold teas. At each table we placed a special gift: we purchased sets of demitasse cups with saucers at our local 99 cent store and filled each cup with three different flavored tea bags, and valentine candy. We wrapped them in pink cellophane tied with ribbon. We covered our tables with white table cloths and used pink and red runners. Red and pink Valentine stuffed Teddy Bears (purchased at our local Big Lots store) were our centerpieces, and pink and red paper hearts of all sizes filled the room. When the guests arrived, they were given a "Volunteer Word Search" game to play just for fun. The completed games were collected by one of our staff members, and served as their entry into the prize drawing which took place later in the event. We had music playing overhead (including Frank Sinatra's "My Funny Valentine") and topped it off with entertainment by a harpist who was an employee. After all the food and socializing, we awarded the "My Volunteer Valentine" honorees with certificates and a gift, by reading the words that had been submitted by employees during the nomination process. We also drew names for the several prizes that we had, and the stuffed Valentine Bears at each table were won by those at each table who's birthday was closest to Valentine's Day. It was a great event!

On-the-Job Photos
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

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!

"Oui" appreciate you!
Submitted by Crystal Brown

A way for managers to show appreciation for support staff! Set up the breakroom or lunchroom with tables and chairs, using real tablecloths and real dishes. Use stemware for juice, etc. Serve quiche, fresh fruit and croissants, and have the managers serve these items wearing berets. Borrow a cd of French music from the local library and play that during the breakfast. This is a personal touch to let staff know how much you appreciate them! And if everyone chips in (all the managers), it should be inexpensive to do as well!

"Our Volunteers Rock"
Submitted by Betty Coyle, Hiawatha Care Center , Iowa, USA

Our theme was the 1950's. From decorations of black and white checkered tablecloth, fold out ice cream floats, and pink place mats and plates. We traditionally have a breakfast. Staff that helped were encouraged to wear their poodle skirts and 50's garb. We also invited volunteers to do the same. We had a guitarist and vocalist play and sing music of the era. Our certificates kept the theme with "You Rock".

A Penny Saved
Submitted by Jessica Brown, Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau

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.

Personal Notes from Recipients
Submitted by Sarah Elliston, United Way Volunteer Resource Center

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.

Personalized Magnets
Submitted by Abby R

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.

Photo from "Younger Years"
Submitted by Kelley Perkins, Seven Rivers Community Hospital , Seven Rivers Community Hospital

I asked volunteers to provide a photo of themselves in "younger years" and had photos made into slides. I wrote a little "hint poem" about each slide, relating the hint to the volunteer's service position, and we played a guessing game at the National Volunteer Week Recognition Luncheon. Big-band music played in the background as each slide was shown and the "hint poem" read. Prizes were given for the most correct guesses. Our volunteers had such fun seeing themselves and others in the slides and enjoyed guessing "who's who". The photos were returned.

Photo Scrapbook
Submitted by Marcia Hale, Chabot Observatory and Science Center

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!

Picturing Volunteers
Submitted by Susan Senglaub, Holy Family Memorial

This past year at our Volunteer Banquet, I created a PowerPoint program (which is similar to a slide show except you use a computer) with pictures of our volunteers. I began by searching and locating many old photos of our volunteers and ran around the hospital taking new ones. I also took pictures of staff members holding signs up that said "Thank You Volunteers". We had enough pictures to go along with three songs. The songs used were POINTS OF LIGHT by Randy Travis, HEAL THE WORLD by Michael Jackson and YOUR SIMPLY THE BEST by Tina Turner The presentation basically three parts. The first part had pictures then a slide came up that said, We couldn't do it without you. Then we had several pictures that we had created as if we didn't have volunteers. We had the gift shop closed with a person peering in. We had the adult day center closed. We piled up mail. Showed empty escort seats. Things like that. Next slide was We Couldn't do it without REALLY! Then we went on to more pictures. The last section of pictures was for the song "Your simply the best". While this song played, pictures of employees ran with them holding up the sign "thank you volunteers". The last said, Thank you Volunteers for all you do. And then this was the end.

Submitted by Judy Gaby, Logansport State Hospital

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 Jill Rafferty, Capital Repertory Theatre

For the past several years, we have conducted a volunteer potluck supper for our volunteers. The theatre provides beverages and paper utensils and each volunteer contributes a dish. It's a "stand-up" meal so everybody mingles and tries lots of new things. We publish the favorite recipes in the theatre's newsletter.

Recognizing our Volunteer Bookkeepers
Submitted by Marian Wilkins, BC Cancer Agency

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.

Residents Recognizing Volunteers
Submitted by Maria Allen

At our Volunteer Recognition Appreciation Celebration each year instead of our volunteers being recognized by myself, each volunteer is introduced and recognized by a different resident explaining what they do and what they mean to that resident. This makes it more personal for our volunteers and our residents. They are then given a certificate with a picture of them doing their gift (singing, arts and crafts, calling bingo).

Restaurant Samplings
Submitted by Rose Lynch

For the past two years we have had a very successful dinner called a "Taste of the Town".  I contact many local restaurants explaining the wonderful event and who the event is for, and fortunately many have agreed to participate, for free!!!  The first year we had as many as 16 restaurants including everything from gourmet lamb chops and seasoned shrimp, to different ethnic foods such as vegetarian lo mein, to meatball sandwiches, to the most delicious bread pudding.  

The restaurants are asked to donate any item from their menu and are welcome to participate and serve in the event.  The guests are served a small portion from any restaurant station. There are small plates provided at each station, staff and/or restaurant employees serve the volunteers. Volunteers can return to any station as many times as
they want.  

As for decorating, we have used red and white checkered tablecloths and asked the staff to wear white aprons with a chef hat. We have also had a French theme with pastel colors and each server wears a scarf with their apron.  All in all, everyone leaves very satisfied, including staff and the restaurant employees. After the event I always send a certificate of appreciation to the participating restaurants. The event does take some work, but has been well worth the effort. 
Good Luck!

A Royal Thank You
Submitted by Crystal Lybarger, American Red Cross

Each year, we honor our dedicated volunteers with a dinner, hence the "Volunteer Recognition Dinner." This year I really struggled for a theme. I came up with "A Royal Thank You." A bit hokey, I know, but it really turned out great. I stuck with royal colors, red, blue, purple, gold, & green. Centerpieces were crowns, beads, tiaras, and large cracked glass vases with royal colored Betta Fish and gemstones. I would have liked to find a "Court Jester" as entertainment but settled for Period music. Lovely royal beads also added a rich touch. In addition I recognized volunteers that were exceptional "Knights in Shining Armor!"

A Salty Recognition
Submitted by Melinda Sedelmeyer

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!

Saying Goodbye to Volunteers with a Care Package
Submitted by Louise Elliott, YMCA-YWCA Career Contact Centre For Youth

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.

Seeds of Kindness
Submitted by Patty Dreiman, RSVP , Indiana, USA

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.

Seven-year Service Medal
Submitted by Ned

The UN designed a volunteer medal for 2001 IYV. This should be modified and the year removed--in its place there should be a clasp for the organisation. Aand make it a seven-year service medal (the average time a volunteer spends in an organisation). As an incentive, this would be great.

Sharing Our History of Volunteers
Submitted by

At Energize, we have a special interest in documenting the history of volunteers. Our president, Susan J. Ellis, co-authored the book: By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers, New Century Edition. We encourage all organizations and collaborative efforts to celebrate  volunteers today by showcasing them as the current step in a continuum of volunteer action from the past and therefore the next step to future service. This is a great way to recognize volunteers and educate the public about their importance. [You can also read Susan's original "Hot Topic" introducing this idea and see what colleagues said in reply.] On this page, we share how others have celebrated the history of their volunteers, plus provide links to pages that can help you develop or share your projects.

Shining Stars
Submitted by Karyn Canett, Senior Center/Volunteer Coordinator

Deciding on a theme can be a treat for a Volunteer Coordinator. One year we decided to recognize our volunteers with a late luncheon titled, "Our Volunteers are Shining Stars". The theme took on a Hollywood/Academy Awards motiff. The colors chosen were black, gold and white. A long red carpet (a remnant) was laid out for our stars to walk on as they entered the event. We even had a "paparazzi" there taking pictures (staff simply taking pictures to record the event). Bouquets of black, white, and gold latex balloons were placed everywhere. Black tablecloths with gold overlays (gold lame cloth purchased from a remnant store) decorated each table. For the backdrop, a "hill" was cut-out of donated ply-wood and painted black, white letters cutout of foam board were placed on the hill spelling out "HOLLYWOOD". Our Christmas lights were strung out to resemble twinkling stars. Each of our volunteers was given a T-shirt with a star shooting across the front stating "I am a Shining Star Volunteer of the Costa Mesa Senior Center". They all seemed to enjoy the shirt. We chose a shirt as that year's gift so that they could be recognized in an everyday setting. Those being specially honored for their services were given a certificate and an "Oscar" statuette, inexpensively purchased from a local party store. All in all the was a gala affair that has yet to be forgotten.

Special Themes, Donated Desserts
Submitted by Laurie Haig

Our nature center is occasionally rented out for special events. For our volunteer party, I have one of the caterers donate an hors d'oeuvre party with desserts for 150 guests. This year our theme is ponds, and the round tables will look like giant lily pads. Our preschool will make giant bugs to put on the pillars. Because I freed up the budget for food, I now can give a better gift to the volunteers. I always look for something useful, so this year we have a local artist/member make pottery plates with a turtle on them.

A Spirit Kit
Submitted by Elliott Pitts, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine , Maine, USA

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!

Starry Photo Album
Submitted by Margaret Redsell

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.

Student Art
Submitted by Stacy Gustafson, A.C.E.S. (Athletes Committed to Educating Students)

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.

The Sweet Rewards of Volunteering
Submitted by Helen Close

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.

Sweet Sorbet Thank You Note
Submitted by Jennifer

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!

Teen Readers Recognition
Submitted by Georgean C. Johnson-Coffey, Allen County Public Library

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!

Thank You for Helping Us Grow!
Submitted by Natalie Elwell, El Barrio, Inc.,

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.

Thank You Scrolls
Submitted by Susan Lebovitz

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.

Thanks Booklet
Submitted by Judy Gaby, Logansport State Hospital

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.

Thanks for "Raisin" All Those Funds
Submitted by Debra Hoyer-Denson, University of Illinois

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!
Theme for Recognition Dinner
Submitted by K. Schutte, Marinette County Elderly Services , Wisconsin

We select a theme for our annual volunteer recognition banquet for our Senior Center and Mealsite volunteers. This year our theme is " Volunteers are worth a million." In keeping with the "so you want to be a Millionaire" craze we are going to have our own version of the game show, with the questions relating to volunteerism, nutrition or aging. Our placemats, nutcups, table decorations, program covers and volunteer certificates will all have a " money" motif. And of course we'll decorate with the color of money--green!

Themed Power Point Presentations to Highlight Honorees
Submitted by Amy Wade

Every year at my recognition luncheon, I make two powerpoint presentations. The first is a slideshow of pictures that relate to the luncheon theme. For instance at our luau, pictures of the Hawaiian islands were shown on a screen as guests were arriving. The next slide show highlights the individuals receiving Years of Service Awards. This slide show is playing while that person is being honored. On this show, I feature a picture of the volunteer, where they work, and I also have the volunteer submit some individual quotes about volunteering that is included on their slide. The guests love the tidbits about the volunteer, and it also allows me to highlight all the honorees, even if they cannot make the event.

Thyme for your Time
Submitted by Kathy Wood , Troop 338

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'.

Time Sheets with Special Notes of Thanks
Submitted by Phil DuBois

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.

Totally Chocolate
Submitted by Kristine Poelzer

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.)

Totebags Designed by the Students
Submitted by Trudy Bouligny, Project Makes Sense , Calistoga JUSD CA,

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!

Treasures in the Sand
Submitted by D Nevala, Roosevelt Elementary , Washington, USA

Our theme this year was "Treasures in the Sand." We handmade the invitations which are always a hit. Volunteers appreciate a personal invitation. The tables were decorated with blue paper, as the ocean. In the middle, brown sugar spread out with all the treasures (peanuts, gummy worms, frog candy, hard rock candy--for the gems,) We made treasure boxes out of cakes..spilling out were candy necklaces and gold coins. This was also on the tables. We made personalized placemats (tan color with a sea shell and waves on, scalloped edging) and we wrote the theme on the mat. Staff and students wrote their thanks on them and we laminated the mats. We also made little bottles of bath salts to go by their place settings. The school staff donated a dish for the luncheon. Every year I give out a "life saver award." The principal buys a plant for each one of the volunteers. We have a couple kids come in and read a poem, choir comes in and sings a few songs. We invite the Volunteer Coordinators from the District Administration, as well as a School Board Member.

"Treasuring" Volunteers
Submitted by Susan Champion, Emerald Coast Hospice , Panama City, Florida

Our Volunteer Appreciation was super successful again this year. I chose a theme which was "You are a Treasure." The tables were decorated with small treasure chests filled with gold coin candies and Mardi Gras beads (bought at 75% off). The invitations were made on a scroll with a treasure chest on the bottom corner. Best of all, our event was held at the Treasure Ship Restaurant, which is really a large replica of an old pirate ship sitting on the lagoon! I had a large treasure chest filled with gift certificates for each volunteer -- nice gifts such as dinners, movies, car washes, haircuts, manicures, etc. Several volunteers were honored with certificates and plaques for longevity also. Now to top that for next year!

Unique Bookmarks
Submitted by Joe Delmar, United Way of Gloucester County (Southern New Jersey) , New Jersey, USA

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.

Unique "Roots" Vase
Submitted by Kijafa Johnson

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.

Unique "Thank You" Chocolate Bars
Submitted by Laurie Eytel, Fairfax County Dept. of Family Services , Virginia, USA

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 by Patricia A. Chambers, St. Mary's Hospital , Huntington, WV

As part of the annual luncheon, we developed a video showing pictures of all the volunteers. We included short interviews with new, working, senior and youth volunteers. The video opened with wonderful music showing areas of the hospital affected by volunteers. We closed with pictures of our volunteers in the chapel. It was very moving. The volunteers loved the new idea.

Volunteer "All Stars"
Submitted by Jamie Barwikowski

We honored our all star volunteers with a baseball themed event. Everyone got a t-shirt that said "Children's Ministry All Stars." The tables were covered with green and then a masking taped diamond and bases were used to decorate. We had hot dogs, nachos & cracker jacks with vendors yelling "ice cream." Tickets were drawn for a local baseball team.

Volunteer Caring Kit
Submitted by Tina Veal, University of Illinois McLean County Extension Unit , Illinois, USA

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.
Volunteer Carnival
Submitted by Melissa Maxon

This year, after thinking about what I could do special for our volunteers, I decided to do a Carnival Theme. I'm going to have Carnival games with lots of prizes. The volunteers earned the tickets for the games by their volunteer hours last year: beginning with five tickets just for being a volunteer, and then one ticket for every 50 hours of volunteer time. I made little ticket books for each volunteer with their names on them and the appropriate number of tickets in each book. I then coordinated with our Nutrition Services to provide carnival type food at the party. I'm hoping to find a resident clown in our midst to show up unannounced to have more fun with our volunteers. After the food and games, we will present the year awards.

Volunteer Christmas Tree
Submitted by Nita Dueck

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.

Volunteer Tea
Submitted by Therese Caldwell, North Kitsap School District , Poulsbo, WA

This year, for the first time ever, our school district held a volunteer tea. All district volunteers were invited, and we had enough special mugs and book bags on hand for everyone. We assumed a maximum attendance of 100, but only really expected about 30 people or so. Each elementary, junior high and administrative department selected two "extra special" volunteers to receive additional recognition at the tea. The high school was allowed to select four people due to their much larger volunteer population. We called the additional recognition the "Starfish Award", presenting each of those volunteers with a personalized certificate (featuring the "Starfish Story") and a starfish pin. The event was held in our school district's board room and we decorated using a beach theme, playing Jimmy Buffet music in the background. As each person was called up to receive their award, I read a brief bio about them, submitted by the school or department that nominated that person. Our superintendent gave them their certificate and pin, and another person took a picture of them. We had a very good turnout (over 60 people), everyone enjoyed the "heavy hors d'oeuvres," and people were thrilled to be recognized.

Volunteers are Gems
Submitted by Bethany Swickrath, Girl Scouts of Appleseed Ridge, Inc., , OH, USA

For our Volunteer Recognition Dinner last spring, we used the theme, "Our Volunteers are Gems!" We used jewel tone colors to decorate. The centerpieces were jeweltoned candle holders with the battery operated candle lights inside. At each place setting, we decorated with a bookmark that had plastic jewels glued to it and read: "Our Volunteers are Like Gems!"

Amethyst-Volunteers are like amethyst because they are vivid and sincere.  They create stability, calmness and tranquility, even in the midst of a rowdy group of children.
Diamond-Volunteers are like diamonds because they are brilliant, courageous and tough. Volunteers are highly prized and loved.
Emerald-Volunteers are like emeralds because they are intense and soothing. They reflect growth, remove weariness and soothe the soul-they are highly valued.
Ruby-Volunteers are like rubies because they are glowing and intense.  They are wise, creative and peaceful.
Sapphire-Volunteers are like sapphires because they are clear and precious.  They are brilliant, precise, happy and bring blessings.

Above all, our volunteers are valuable, beautiful, tough, priceless and truly treasured. It was a huge success as the volunteers truly felt valued and appreciated.

Volunteers Make a World of Difference
Submitted by Nancy Hughes

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.

Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness
Submitted by Amanda Reid

This year we chose the theme "Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness." We served a breakfast themed brunch and had our director sing a few songs to our guests. On the appreciation certificates that each volunteer was presented with, we printed the words, "Volunteers plant the seeds of kindness, thank you for planting yours with us!" As a gift to each of our volunteers, we had a wildflower seed packet, a lapel pin with flowers on it, and a personalized chocolate bar. To decorate the room, we had a photo of each volunteer in a flower frame on the wall, vases with brightly colored flowers on each table, and white table clothes to make the room bright, inviting and festive. Everyone had a great time!

Where Were You In '72
Submitted by Mindy Sakmar

This was the theme of our annual volunteer banquet. Our organization is 35 years old this year. We dressed up in the 70's. The programs were just like a 1972 yearbook. Our place mats were a collage of volunteer pictures with the other side written notes from the staff just like we did in our yearbooks. We had a "pet rock" for a favor. I was able to download a box from the internet and put our logo on it. We put them together and put in rocks and instructions. We also made a set of the "Price is Right" and gave away a door prize for the winner.

Wizard of Oz
Submitted by

This year's banquet we did a take on the "Wizard of Oz." Everything we did we did around the story. We had a skit that the staff performed; "Looking for home". Dorothy was looking for a home to volunteer and along the way met the scarecrow who needed committment to volunteer, the tinwoman was looking for the heart and compassion for volunteering and the lion needed courage. It was fun and if you want more on this please feel free to email me at: kaenan @

Awards/Special Acknowledgment to Volunteers

Above and Beyond
Submitted by Pam Maguire

Every year The Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 233 District 23 pays tribute to someone in the community who goes beyond volunteering. Last year we honored the Banning & Beaumont Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors. This year we pay tribute to two members who volunteer a lot at the Jerry L. Pettis Hospital in Loma Linda. They are at the VA hospital just about every day.

AngelsThu, 02/13/2014 - 03:10
Submitted by Mandy Standard

In working as the Volunteer Coordinator for Domestic Violence Services, where it is my main job to see that our Crisis Line is staffed at all times, I have started referring to Crisis Line workers as A.N.G.E.L.s, which stand for "Always Needed Gentle Enthusiastic Listeners." They are the back bone of our agency.

Asking Their Pastor to Present Award
Submitted by Kirsten D. Nelson, Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church , Illinois, USA

For a recent volunteer planning council (for a regional church's youth event), I sent the volunteer's Certificate of Appreciation to their senior pastor asking the pastor to publicly present the certificate during a worship service or board meeting. That way, the volunteer is recognized in their home community AND their church then know about their involvement AND the event receives a "good-will" announcement to be remembered the next time volunteers are needed!

Awards from Other Organizations
Submitted by Shaundar Bradbury, Methamphetamine Family Services, Pierce County Alliance

Some communities give out service awards to volunteers. I recently became aware that in Pierce County, WA, the United Way gives out "Green Feather Awards" to individuals who volunteer over 100 hours a year. Several of our regular volunteers received a certificate (complete with the number of hours they volunteered) and a nice lapel pin. I thought this was a great idea for regular volunteers! Try the United Way, the local parks administration, the city offices, established service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis), etc. to find out if such an award is available in your community. It's really suitable for volunteer interns (who often rack up hundreds of hours over several months) and for college students, who can list the community award on their resumes!

Celebrating Volunteers Down Under
Submitted by

The Royal Australian Mint has released a series of 2003 commemorative coins to celebrate the work of Australia's volunteers. They can be viewed at or [links updated, 2014]. As the Mint says: "Brimming with the spirit of mateship and goodwill, this wonderful memento is a fitting tribute to the many unsung Australians who do credit to us all."


Ears to You!
Submitted by Patti Cushingberry

We have a volunteer mentoring program, for kids ages 16-21, supervised by the Probation Department. At the end of the 10 week program, we like to present a small token of our appreciation to the volunteers. I found large plastic ears, that fit over an ear, and attach a note that says "Thanks for listening!!!" They love it.

Get Caught Smiling
Submitted by Brian Probst, Humane Society & SPCA , California, USA

During the month of November, every time a staff member catches a volunteer smiling and enjoying what they are doing, they congratulate them, and give them a "Happy Face Sticker," for their nametag. As an added bonus, the volunteer is entered into a drawing for a dinner for four donated by a local restaurant. The volunteer with the winning ticket will be drawn at our annual Holiday Appreciation Dessert Buffet in early December.

Hawaiian Lei Rotating Award
Submitted by Melissa Axley

As a not-for-profit volunteer agency, we have limited funding available for recognition, although we have so many volunteers who are deserving. I have a group who works together on a regular basis and meets monthly. At each meeting we pass around an award that is an inexpensive hawaiian lei. It is an inexpensive way for individuals who work as a group to recognize each other. For example, one month it is the "Jane Doe Award," where Jane Doe decides whom she would like to recognize. The following month it becomes the award granted by the last recipient. It is a fun way to build a team and let others help recognize each other. Our group greatly enjoys it!

Honoring Those Very Special Volunteers
Submitted by Lacretia Bacon, City of Phoenix - Human Services Dept.

We tried to send a response to this e-mail but received an "address unknown." So it occurred to us, why not post it! I really appreciated your recognition ideas, and am hoping you can help me a little further. I work in the Minnesota Zoo's volunteer department and several of our volunteers are about to pass the 20 year milestone. We're looking for a great gift item for them for under $40. Do you have any ideas? What do other agencies do? Any ideas would be helpful. Here are some responses: Can you dedicate an exhibit that started when they did? Or make a "Walk of Fame" and put their names on bricks? How about choosing 20 long-lived animals and naming them for the volunteers? Plant a tree in an exhibit and create a "Grove of Volunteering". Dedicate part of your re-education area in their honor and put up a plaque with their names listed. It's SO EASY when you start looking inside the organization - after all, they've spent 20 years working for the zoo, what better way to reward them than to make them truly a "part of it" by dedicating something in their honor? (P.S. Also cheaper than finding a gift that's appropriate, cheap, and suits the organization's mission too!) It's always easier thinking up ideas for someone else's programs!

Namesake Awards
Submitted by Tanya K. Refshauge, National Service Fraternity

In our all-volunteer organization, one of our more special methods of recognition is to name awards after long-standing, stellar volunteer role models. Additionally, we have a 'batch' of volunteers that enter our organization together, during specific times in the year. These groups are usually 'named' after an extraordinary volunteer; a namesake, if you will. Part of this groups orientation then includes information about this individual, and if possible, the honoree also addresses the group.

Oscar Night
Submitted by Valerie Hamilton

Last year for my Girl Scout leaders we had an "Oscar Night" and each leader was awarded an "Oscar" for her hard work. The "Oscar" was a votive candle turned upside down with a pom pom for the head and googly eyes. I then used pipecleaners for arms. My leaders loved them!

Outstanding Service Award
Submitted by Victoria Evangelista, Rocky Mountain PBS

This award was the idea of one of our volunteers who chooses not take sole credit. Each year around January, volunteers and staff are asked to submit nominations for this award, which is presented on or near Valentine's Day. The award, now in its fifth year, is given to a staff member and volunteer who give outstanding service to Rocky Mountain PBS, give unselfishly of time and energy and are always there to help; those who give "from the Heart." These are people who are not highly visible, such as Committee Chairs, etc. Flowers, heart-shaped cookies, red and white balloons and a card (embedded in a plaque--new this year) are presented. A photo and brief history of each person is read to the group and is front-page news in the March issue of Volunteer Vision (our quarterly volunteer newsletter) and is included in Promo (our member program guide). In 2001 the ceremony was videotaped to produce an on-air spot. Nominations are open to all Rocky Mountain PBS staff and volunteers. As Jane Owen put it last year, it is a very short, sweet and touching ceremony and it will be must do on James' calendar. It truly is a very wonderful honor for all involved!

Photo Banner
Submitted by Sheila Friesen

Last year I took pictures of all my volunteers. I scanned them onto my computer and printed them onto iron-on transfer sheets. I then pressed them onto a cloth patch and we sewed all the patches together to make a banner which is now hanging in our store.

"Post-It" Recognition
Submitted by Molly Anderson

One year our church held a volunteer recognition service. After the appropriately themed sermon we played "The Way You Do the Things You Do" while members of the congregation listed volunteer tasks on post-it notes and then posted the notes on the volunteers who had done the tasks. After a few minutes no one was free of post-it notes (except for one lady whose dress material would not hold anything!)and some people were completely plastered with them. The event became fairly raucous and the response was generally favorable. There were numerous comments about this being the only non-boring volunteer Sunday service we'd ever had.

"Priceless" Volunteers
Submitted by Teresa Severs

I recently did our annual volunteer banquet which the theme was "You're worth your weight in Gold." Everything was centered around money. We had a 1" dowel rod cut in thin pieces, spray painted them gold and scattered them on the table to represent coins. Had paper cut in the size of dollar bills, the top piece of paper was printed as a dollar bill with different volunteers pictures in replace of George Washington. (The pieces of paper underneath were left blank.) We then cut strips of paper around them to band them together. We spray painted bricks gold to represent gold bars. We set them on the table and there were stacks of them on the backdrop. We had bags made out of cream color burlap type material, filled with shredded paper, tied with gold cord from the fabric dept. and painted a gold dollar sign on the side. These were in the center of each table as our money bags.

A Round of Applause
Submitted by Myra Wooten

We give our volunteers a "Round of Applause." It is a simple piece of paper, cut into a circle with a photo of the staff cheering that lists to, from, why and the date. Anytime, we want to say thank you to a volunteer we give them a "round". After a person collects 3 of them, they turn them in for a prize, usually donated gift card, gas card, etc. This lets us acknowledge their support on an onging basis.

Row of Honor
Submitted by Wanda Llewellyn, O'Bleness Memorial Hospital

Originally our "Service in Excellence" award which is given to an individual who contributed above and beyond regular service duties was recognized at our annual celebration with a special pin and notice in the local media. But an even greater recognition was offered by one of our local banks. They offered to plant a tree on the hospital grounds for each of the awardees. The first year eight trees were planted for the first recipients. Now, each year another tree is planted in the "Row of Honor" which is becoming a lovely garden next to the hospital. Each tree has a plaque with the volunteer's name and year of recognition. This business recognition of our volunteers now highlights our program to the community on an ongoing basis.

Submitted by Shelley Malyk, St. Amant Centre , Manitoba, Canada

This works well for organizations where large numbers of volunteers come to a single location. Using 4 inch white paper doilies, we put the name of every volunteer on their own "Snowflake" and hung them from the ceiling of the volunteer lounge. We added a poster that said "Just as every snowflake can add up to a blizzard, so every volunteer's contribution adds up to a storm of activity here. Thank you for your dedication". This created a lot of fun as each volunteer looked for their snowflake and also impressed staff and visitors with the extent of volunteer involvement here. This could be adapted for other seasons.

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Thankfulness Poster
Submitted by Susan Webster Pronk

At Saint Marys Hospital/Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN we gave a blank piece of poster board to each of the areas where we had staff working directly with volunteers about a month before Thanksgiving. We asked the staff to create a "Thankfulness" poster for the volunteers on their service. We then posted them in the volunteer office during the week before and after Thanksgiving. It was great to see the creativity of the staff and hear the expressions of surprise and gratitude for the thoughtfulness from the volunteers as they looked at them.

"The Golden Plunger" Award
Submitted by PC Walker,

We wanted to create a humorous but honorable award for "that individual" who is kind of a jack of all trades...or the one you find does all the hard work that others don't line up to do. It is "The Golden Plunger" award. You just get a new toilet plunger at the store, spray paint it gold, and then write something on"Someone's gotta do it" (or something like that), along with the person's name.

"The Super Supervisor"
Submitted by Erin Spink, Canadian Cancer Society , Canada

In the past, I began a recognition program with supervisors at team meetings called "The Super Supervisor" award. It involved a silly cape with a Superman-like S in the centre and a trophy. It was a non-confrontational way to encourage staff to set a good example for others in working with volunteers, and became something staff looked for.

Volunteer Hall of Fame
Submitted by Frank Pomata, Contact: Diana O'Neill at Long Island Volunteer Center, NY 516-564-5482 , New York, USA

Honorees include founders of local nonprofit organizations in 12 distinct categories of voluntary activity. The L.I. Volunteer Hall of Fame was created by a coalition of local agencies and grew out of local efforts to celebrate IYV2001.

Volunteer Photo ID Contest
Submitted by Maureen Bednarek

We took pictures of ten volunteers and posted them as the background on all of the computers in the hospital during National Volunteer Week. We held a contest to see which employee could name the greatest number of volunteers. The staff member received a $50.00 gift certificate and the volunteers had a lot of fun with the staff all trying to find out their names and engaging in playful conversation.

Volunteer of the Month
Submitted by B Schick, Hollywood Hill Elem , Washington USA

We have a "Volunteer of the Month" as a way to recognize our volunteers all year versus at the end of the year. We ask the school families to send in nominations of volunteers that are going above and beyond or a person that is a behind the scenes person for that month. They get recoginized in the area that they volunteer in be it a classroom etc. They are honored in front of the people that they volunteer for. We take their picture and it goes into a frame on the wall and then they are recgonized in the school weekly newsletter. We find we can recognize more people this way and in a more timely matter. Next year we are thinking of having grade level recgonitions as well to include more volunteers.

Volunteer Tree
Submitted by Janice Sander, Battlefords Union Hospital Foundation , Saskatchewan, Canada

We created a Volunteer Tree. Every year we hold a Festival of Trees, that takes an incredible amount of volunteers to put on. So before we kick off the Festival, we hold a Volunteer Appreciation night. To recognize our volunteers, we took a picture of each one of them with a digital camera. We then printed them out with a color printed and cut them out into different shapes for the Christmas tree. We put a little glitter around the edges and then hung the pictures on a 9' Christmas tree for all visitors to see at the Festival to see. We called it our Volunteer Tree. It was a big hit with the volunteers and you would catch them looking for their pictures and sometimes even moving them to a more prominent spot on the tree.

We Mint to say Thanks!
Submitted by Rosie Van Cleave, La Plata County Humane Society , Colorado, USA

I bought a package of Lifesaver Mints and put them in a bowl on the table where most of the volunteers eat lunch. On the bowl I put the sign: "We Mint to Say Thanks!" It was well received and was an easy way to show appreciation for our volunteers.

Ongoing and Informal Ways to Say Thank You

Afternoon at the Movies
Submitted by Linda Bacon, CAVS , Indiana, USA

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.

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving
Submitted by Traci Lato

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.

Hats Off to Volunteers
Submitted by Aimee Hepler

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.

Honors for Volunteers and Staff
Submitted by Marcia Ferguson, Mercy Medical Center

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!

I Pledge Allegiance to the Volunteers of . . .
Submitted by Repay Someday, Repay Someday

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.

Let them know they are FAN-tastic
Submitted by Sally, MSABC Volusia/Flagler

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.

Let them know they are FAN-tastic
Submitted by Sally, MSABC Volusia/Flagler

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.

More than a Plaque or Certificate
Submitted by Non-Profit Nuts & Bolts newsletter

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.
Note and Candy
Submitted by Becky Degnon, exual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at the University of New Hampshire , New Hampshire, United States

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!

Note and Candy
Submitted by Becky Degnon, exual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at the University of New Hampshire , New Hampshire, United States

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!

Online Volunteer "Notes"
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

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.

Our Brightest Stars
Submitted by Mirna Alberto, Misericordia Health Centre , Canada

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!

Our Brightest Stars
Submitted by Mirna Alberto, Misericordia Health Centre , Canada

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!

"Pat on the Back"
Submitted by Karol Haynes, First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse , New York, USA

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.

A Personal Note from You
Submitted by Ms. De Jenkins Lambing, Wheelchair Recycling Project

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!

Potlucks for Staff and Volunteers
Submitted by Nazia A. Hossain

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.

Recognition Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
Submitted by Sherry Leigh Mitchell, The Greater Kalamazoo Area Holiday Food Drive , Michigan, USA

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. 

Recognition Doesn't Have to Be Expensive
Submitted by Sherry Leigh Mitchell, The Greater Kalamazoo Area Holiday Food Drive , Michigan, USA

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. 

Stick with It!
Submitted by Sara Ervin

When volunteers are discouraged, hand out sticky notes, with "Stick with it!" written on top.

Thank You Notes to Volunteers' Workplace
Submitted by Christine Cooper, Citizens for a Clean Caledon

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.

Thank You Notes to Volunteers' Workplace
Submitted by Christine Cooper, Citizens for a Clean Caledon

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.

Thanks Online
Submitted by Kim Gube, American Red Cross, National Capital Chapter

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!

Volunteers - Wall of Fame!
Submitted by Laura Fronko, World Vision

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.

International Volunteer Day Celebrations

Artists in Our Midst
Submitted by Phil Rivera, The Detroit Institute of Arts Volunteer Committee , Michigan, USA

As the program chairman for the Gallery Service Volunteers at the Detroit Institute of Arts, I am charged with coordinating enrichments and events for a volunteer group of over 300. For our 2001 Annual Meeting, we chose to commemorate the the International Year of the Volunteer by centering our enrichment around our own volunteers. We organized an Art Show featuring the works of 15 "Artists in Our Midst," showcasing the works of our very own volunteers. The day was enjoyed by all attendees, and the artists were proud to share their talents with their colleagues.

Event in the Park - Porto Alegre Brazil
Submitted by Maria Elena Johannpeter, Largo Visconde do Cairu , Porto Alegre, Brazil

We organized an event in a very large park in Porto Alegre, Brazil.   We carried out a similar celebration in a Park last year and received around 40,000 people.

December 5 - Several activities were developed by volunteers, under the supervision of a professional volunteer in order to make the park more beautiful. These activities include cleaning the park, planting flowers, painting the play ground and the park seats, cleaning the lake, etc. This way it will be shown that the volunteer action can make a difference in life and in the public places of Porto Alegre.

December 6 - We carried out a joint work with our 70 partners social organizations. It lasted from 9 am to 6 pm. Each organization will display its handcraft products or show the type of work they perform. There will be one booth for each organization. There will be a stage for shows which will be held all day long. There will be also a cultural space with the participation with known artists of several areas. There will be activities directed to children, such as clowns, shows, ginkanas, games, etc.

Plans in Minnesota, U.S.
Submitted by , Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will be celebrating on December 5 by honoring their volunteers. We will start the day off right by serving a volunteer brunch to honor volunteers and the families that support them. The entire afternoon will be filled with activities for both the public and volunteers' families to enjoy. Speakers, movies, kids activities, interpretive programs, Frosty the Snowman, MN Wild Food tasting, and snowshoeing are just a few of the things that will be happening. The entire afternoon is free and open to the public.

Plans in Prishtina -Kosovo
Submitted by David Burfoot, UN Volunteers , Prishtina, Kosovo

We are planning to publise UN volunteers with an exhibition in Prishtina, interviewing some legal volunteers in Peje and involving volunteers in reconstructing roofs in Mitrovica.

Young Explorers' Institute in India
Submitted by Major S. K. De, Young Explorers' Institute for Social Service , Kolkata, India

The Young Explorers' Institute for Social Service in Salt Lake, Kolkata, India has been jointly organizing International Volunteers' Day since 2002. The event is mainly discussion among the Civil Societies located in and around Kolkata. The All-India Radio in Kolkata broadcast a one-hour program, with audience participation, on December 5th, 2002.

Young Explorers' Institute in India
Submitted by Major S. K. De, Young Explorers' Institute for Social Service , Kolkata, India

The Young Explorers' Institute for Social Service in Salt Lake, Kolkata, India has been jointly organizing International Volunteers' Day since 2002. The event is mainly discussion among the Civil Societies located in and around Kolkata. The All-India Radio in Kolkata broadcast a one-hour program, with audience participation, on December 5th, 2002.

Learning Opportunities as Thanks

Ask Your Volunteers
Submitted by Charlotte Smith Neyland, Volunteer Connection East of Longmont

This year, we asked our 25 volunteers what they would like to do for a recognition event. The general consensus was we do something fun (go to a museum or gallery) or have the opportunity to learn something new. The Volunteer Connection is hosting a staff prepared lunch. One of our staff is an art gallery director and photographer. She will teach us the art of creating Polaroid transfers from a picture we take or a colored slide we bring. We are also having a guest poet teach us the art of writing poetry which we will share with each other. The entire event is scheduled over a four hour period.

Chips and Chat
Submitted by Drew Gulyas, Camp Oochigeas

Each year before our busy season starts we host a feedback session where we invite all our volunteers to our office for dinner and discussion. In the past we have called these sessions "chips and chat" and "pizza and parley". This evenings are a chance for our volunteers to share what they think about how we are doing as an organization and where we should be moving to in the future. It gives them a sense of ownership and stake in the orginization. It also lets them know that we as managers are interested and listening to what they have to say and that we care about their opinions.

Container Gardening
Submitted by Jan Schumacher

This year at our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner one of our staff members, a passionate gardener, gave a container-garden demonstration. The container, soil, plants, fertilizer - even her gloves - were donated by a local nursery. The lovely finished product became the much coveted door prize that evening and one of the volunteers took it home. The nursery also donated gift certificates for everyone.

Gardening Theme
Submitted by Jerrie McLean, Woolwich Community Health Centre , Ontario, Canada

This year we used a gardening theme for our volunteer appreciation event. We invited Master Gardeners to do a demonstration and called it "All the Dirt on Container Gardening". It was an evening event with refreshments and desserts (also cheese, crackers and fruit for those with dietary limitations). At the end of the demonstration we raffled the 3 containers as door prizes. We also had small gifts for each volunteer - Herb starter kits. They were small plant containers with herb seeds, fertilizer sticks, soil and growing instructions. They had an small ornamental bird in the pot and a sign that said: "Volunteers love to share their Thyme".

Gifts Galore
Submitted by Desiree Larson, Women' s Way , North Dakota, USA

We have a speaker that gives a mini-seminar about the ten gifts that each of us have. Our tables are decorated with gifts (wrapped empty packages). We ask that each volunteer bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food pantry and a gift to pass on to another.

Giving Back to Yourself
Submitted by Merle Walker, Lake Metroparks

I had done a survey on what volunteers thought about our volunteer program and many of the surveys indicated that park volunteers really enjoyed what they do but they would like more training. I was determined to use volunteer recognition as a means to kick-off volunteer training opportunities throughout the year. As a result, I developed my own workshop-Giving Back to Yourself This was a one day motivational workshop put on during National Volunteer Week. It opened with a Board of Park Commissioner and Executive Director giving park wide updates, followed by a short film and two great motivational speakers. Volunteers asked questions, got some answers, meditated and left feeling a renewed sence of commitment to the parks and to themselves. It was one of the best recognitions we have had.

Resume Writing
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

In my volunteer program at the Philadelphia Family Court, we recognized graduating student volunteers with a special seminar on resume writing, with emphasis on how they could describe their volunteer work as a credential that would impress prospective employers or university admissions officers.

Taking Volunteers to Court
Submitted by Edward Callahan, Children's Cultural Center

Every year we plan a tour of our county courthouse and a luncheon with our county commissioners. Many of our volunteers love the tour, we visit places like the 911 center, the sheriff's office and recorder of deeds. When these volunteers see how the court house is run they are so amazed. Their favorite department is security. The chief of security always shows them weapons that people have brought into the court house.

Taking Volunteers to Court
Submitted by Edward Callahan, Children's Cultural Center

Every year we plan a tour of our county courthouse and a luncheon with our county commissioners. Many of our volunteers love the tour, we visit places like the 911 center, the sheriff's office and recorder of deeds. When these volunteers see how the court house is run they are so amazed. Their favorite department is security. The chief of security always shows them weapons that people have brought into the court house.

Trips and Outings

Bus Trips
Submitted by Lynn McShane, Glenbow Museum , Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A large component of our volunteer program is the social aspect; many of our volunteers, young and old, love to get together in a social setting, ideally when there's an opportunity for more learning.

Twice a year, we offer recognition in the form of bus trips to other museums, art galleries and cultural and science-based organizations throughout Alberta. When space permits, we invite our volunteers to bring along a guest.

It's always a special time when volunteers can introduce family and friends to staff and other volunteers. They share stories of their volunteer roles, the tasks they complete, and the good times they have.

As a bonus, we often arrange a "behind the scenes" tour with our peers in volunteer management, so family and friends get to see and learn about cultural and collection management that very few experience.

After a full day of laughing and learning, our volunteer family is usually expanded, as we often have family and friends clamoring to sign up and volunteer with us!

Ice Cream Social
Submitted by Heidi Walker, Natrona County Library , Wyoming, USA

A new Gazebo was built right behind our library as part of our Rail-To-Trails park, so it seemed perfect to hold an ice cream social for our recognition event in August. We used red, white, and blue colors to make it old fashioned and all American. It was really fun to get some of the staff involved doing a skit and singing songs that we adapted for the event. Serving sundaes and having the program in the middle made it move along and 2 hours was just about right. For favors, we contacted a few local merchants for little premiums, like a piece of fudge or a flower, and listed them on a "Thank You" bookmark. We also honored our "Golden Volunteers" who've given 50 hours or more this past year with a special bookplate to put into a book of their choice that will go into the library's permanent collection.

Submitted by Linda Bacon, Major Hospital IN

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.

Seeds of Success
Submitted by Jeanne Jablonski, Cancer Support Center

Last June, we had a wonderfully successful volunteer appreciation night. A local theater group donated a free performance for our organization to share with volunteers. The night at the Center, with food (all donated) and drinks to start. Next, there were two buses (donated) that transported all of the volunteers over to the show. During intermission, we had two of our participants who use our services talk about their experience with the Center (Cancer Support Center) and how much they personally appreciate individuals who so kindly give of their time. Following the show, as the volunteers were getting off the bus, staff members handed terra cotta pots with a packet of seeds that read :"volunteers plant the seeds of success" to each volunteer. The pots were decorated by staff in a very simple manner, with ribbon, and dirt was also included so everything was ready to go! The event received RAVE reviews!

A Wellness Experience
Submitted by Linda Anderson

Try treating your volunteers to a "Wellness" experience. We shared chair yoga, aromatherapy and meditation followed by a light, healthy lunch. Volunteers all left feeling relaxed and appreciated!

Resources for Your Recognition Ideas

Cheap thank you cards
Submitted by Barb Jackson

I have found that for $0.39 I can have a digital picture of a volunteer group printed on a thank-you card. It also comes with an envelope for mailing. Check at your site for digital prints. The Thank You card is in the book with the Christmas cards, etc. They look really cool and get posted wherever the group is from.

Inexpensive wedding gifts as thank yous?
Submitted by Melanie

I found a great website called  They have all sorts of inexpensive gifts for weddings, but many of them work well for volunteers.  We gave the "Love Beyond Measure" spoons to women who had volunteered at our church.  They cost a few dollars each and the volunteers loved them.  We were surprised how warmly they were received.


Neat, free digital thank you cards
Submitted by Susan Ellis

Check out the neat, free digital thank you cards and other event planning resources at


Websites for ideas
Submitted by , Girl Scouts of Montachusett Council, Inc. , Massachusetts, USA

Girl Scouts of Montachusett Council, Inc.,

Worcester MA

Here's a list of websites that I loved getting ideas from:

  1. Tips for writing thank you notes (nolonger avilable, 2014)

  2. Volunteer Recognition Ideas Forum

Here is a list of recognition products that I use:

  1. Positive Promotions,, 1-800-635-2329
  2. The Thanks Company,, 1- 888-480-1636
  3. Great Events Publishing,, 1-888-433-8368
  4. U.S. Toy,, 1-800-255-6124
  5. Oriental Trading Company, Inc.,, 1-800-228-269
  6. Rhode Island Novelty,, 1-800-528-5599
  7. Baudville, "The Place for Daily Recognition",, 1-800-728-0888
  8. An Open Heart,, 707-546-2504
  9. Bells International, Inc.,, 1-800-822-1923 (national volunteer week items)
  10. It Takes Two (greeting cards),
  11. Daily Apples,
  12. Fun Gifts for the Resourceful Crafter,

National Volunteer Week Celebrations

Chocolate Bars
Submitted by Linda Sunderland, Hospice Peterborough

We always have our volunteer recognition event in June but this year, because it is International Year of Volunteers, I did not want National Volunteer Week to go by without some special acknowledgment. During April, I sent all our volunteers a chocolate bar in the mail with a special card inviting them to our BBQ in June and telling them all the scientific reasons why chocolate is good for you, plus a funny list all about chocolate I found on the Internet. It was such a small and simple gesture but I have never had so much feedback. The neat thing is that I have 200 volunteers and I only get about 60 individuals out to our official volunteer recognition event. This way even the volunteers who never come to events received a treat, and they were surprised and thrilled.

Client-Personalized Cards
Submitted by Jeri Shumate

During National Volunteer Appreciation Week, I created note cards with inspirational quotes and thoughts. Our clients used them to write "thank-yous" or other comments to their volunteer counselors. The counselors were deeply touched and surprised.

Hats off to Volunteers
Submitted by Catherine Graham, The Institute for Human Services

Our theme last year for Volunteer Recognition was "Hats Off to You". All the staff came wearing outrageous hats of all kinds, the potted plants as centerpieces were in hats turned upside down. But the most fun was that all 100 of those present made newspaper hats - the kind that it takes at least 3 people to make - one as model, one to hold 3 or 4 sheets of newspaper down on model's head, one to wrap tape around the model's head and paper, and many hands to roll the paper up as the hat's brim. Volunteers met and worked with all sorts of new people, decorated the hats with flowers and balloons and whatever else they could find and had so much fun. I have never seen a room full of people who did not know each other have so much fun working together. Everyone left with a totally unique hat and a great memory. Their sense of commitment to our organization for another year was sealed by newspaper hats.

Hats Off to Volunteers Day!
Submitted by Jean Anton, Shriners Hospital for Children , St. Louis Missouri, USA

How about a "Hats Off to Volunteers Day?' Just have the staff wear a hat (any kind) on that day and tip their hat to each volunteer they meet. Now I need some ideas. We still have the big luncheon to recognize volunteers during National Volunteer Week. Our theme next year will be "Celebrate the Magic of Volunteering." Of course we'll have a magician; centerpieces will be black top hats with rabbits in them.

Submitted by Robin Albert, Sexual Assault Support Service

At a recent Volunteer Recognition night for our agency, we played a game of "Jeopardy" with topics relating to our volunteers and our agency's work. Those who answered questions correctly received a chocolate truffle. We also did a take of of Dave Letterman's "Top Ten" by coming up with our own list of "Top Ten" reasons to Volunteer with our agency. At various points throughout the evening, we revealed one of the reasons. We also read little poems we had written about certain volunteers we were highlighting with special recognition, then presented them with the poem.

National Volunteer Week Packet
Submitted by

A great National Volunteer Week packet is located on the University of Nebraska - 4-H website at It has a lots of general recognition ideas! Submitted by Tina Veal, Extension Assistant, Youth Development, McLean County 4-H, Illinois


A Personal Moment
Submitted by Becky Dirks, Post Adjutant VFW Post 4077 , Anamosa Iowa, USA

We are celebrating National Volunteer Week in our High School with an assembly that will recognize 3 volunteers that have always been there for so many of our school, community and veterans events. While we only recognize 3 with awards there are countless others, parents, grandparents and friends that are there working in the background in so many ways. It only takes a minute to recognize them on a personal level when you see them. Bring them to a stop (they are usually very busy), look them in the eye with your best smile and say "Thank you for all the help you give!".

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon
Submitted by , Volunteer Centre of the Blue Sky Region , Canada

Every April during Volunteer Appreciation Week we hold a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon to recognize the efforts of our volunteers. This past year we served 700 free lunches to say thanks to our volunteers. Other activities take place this week as well including a button program that recognizes our volunteers with special discounts from local merchants.

Volunteers are Gold
Submitted by Heather Melton, The Elizabeth Hospice , Escondido California, USA

This year for our Volunteer Recognition Event during National Volunteer Week, we are having an Olympic theme. We are having various staff members speak to recognize each group of volunteers as to why "Volunteers Are Our Gold"! We ordered volunteer-designed water bottles and filled with candy with our logo imprinted on the back with our theme "You Are Our Gold". We are greeting each volunteer at the event by hanging gold medals around their necks. We are decorating in red, white, and blue and having the Olympic ring display at the front of the room. Lastly, we are having a Power Point presentation of events and volunteer pictures from the last year with a gold medal design. We will play the Olympic theme during the presentation.

Volunteers Rock!
Submitted by Jessica Richter, NC Lifeline

To celebrate National Volunteer Week this year we chose to host a 50's themed Rockin' Volunteer Bash luncheon to say "Volunteers, You Rock!" Many of the staff wore 50's style clothing and all guests were encouraged to do the same. As guests arrived, two of our staff rolled around on roller skates with record-style trays full of bazooka gum and red licorice. Music from the 50's played behind an inflatable juke box. The room which held the food had handmade music notes and records hanging from the ceiling. The seating tables were covered with black and white checkered tablecloths with a centerpiece of a cut-out couple dancing on records. We found many of our decorations at party supplies websites. The food also stayed with the theme. We served In-N-Out Burgers, fruit salad, macaroni and cheese, chips and brownies. We also set up a soda shop where two staff served rootbeer floats and refreshments. Our Rockin' Volunteer Bash was a huge success and a fun day for all.

"What Does My Mentor Mean to Me?"
Submitted by Leslie, AmeriCorps-UTA , Texas, USA

I coordinate an AmeriCorps Program in Texas and our members/volunteers tutor and mentor at-risk. For National Volunteer Week we are sponsoring an essay contest. The theme is "What Does My Mentor Mean To Me" We are going to post these essays on the program listserv and prizes will be awarded for the top three essays.

Community-Wide Events

Community Volunteer Recognition Program
Submitted by Lori George, CASA

When I first arrived at my child advocacy volunteer program, there was nothing in the budget for recognition. I did some research and found a free community volunteer recognition program. Nonprofit agencies nominate volunteers every month. The volunteer's name and story is announced on a local talk radio station, and the volunteer receives a free engraved plaque from a local trophy company. It's great advertising for the radio station and trophy company, and the volunteers love it. This program was organized by the local volunteer center, and was a huge help to non-profits.

Downtown Mural
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

Many years ago Columbia, South Carolina had a construction project going on downtown with a rather ugly protective wall. The Volunteer Center coordinated a community-wide volunteer recognition event that started with permission to paint this wall (it surrounded a complete city block) and the donated services of an artist who painted an outline all around it of people of every description tugging together on a rope. The local agencies were asked to submit photographs of a representative volunteer. The photos were blown up and placed on the faces of the painted people in the mural. And then, on a designated day, all the volunteers from all the agencies were invited to come out and paint in the rest of the mural with all sorts of colors! The mural painting itself generated publicity that day (and new knowledge of volunteering in the community) and the mural stayed up for the duration of the construction project.

Honoring All Volunteers in a Community
Submitted by Patty Morrison, DVS McKee Medical Center

Several years ago, another DVS and myself pulled together all the volunteer coordinators of all the non-profits in our area. We now have an annual event which honors all volunteers in the City of Loveland. Our group is called..."Loveland Honors Volunteers" We are planning our event for April and using the theme of "A World of Thanks" in keeping with the International Year.... We ask all non-profits to submit an honoree each year.

Join Hands Day
Submitted by Lisa Coble, Newport Hospital

A committee comprised of volunteer managers from a variety of non-profits organized a "Join Hands Day" to celebrate volunteers from all sectors of our island community. We got the local newspaper on board to provide publicity which was the key to our success in creating a community wide recognition event. We did a mailing to over 100 organizations asking them to create "hand prints" representing their volunteers. They were encouraged to be as creative as they wanted in making the "hands". We collected over 1000 very unique hands that were strung up in a park for a day. There was also some refreshments and entertainment to celebrate the day. The simple act of submitting a hand print was fun for the volunteers. The newspaper ran 6 separate articles to spot light the event which generated awareness of volunteerism and showed much appreciation to our local volunteers.

Lovely legacy of IYV:
Submitted by

View the "Volunteer!" - an original, exclusive, new tulip produced in honor of IYV. It's now in full bloom within the five boroughs of New York City, synchronistically for National Volunteer Week . Read more about it.


Mini-Grants to Volunteers
Submitted by Diane Knudsen, Boulder County , Colorado, USA

For several years, the County Commissioners have awarded mini-grants to volunteers in County government volunteer programs. Volunteers submit proposals for grants that will benefit the work of their volunteer program, the clients served by the volunteer program, or the program volunteers, e.g., a demonstration project, the enhancement of a current project, the purchase of a piece of equipment or supplies that will improve or enhance the volunteer experience or the volunteer program, training or publications that will increase volunteer skills or knowledge. Awards are made at a Commissioners' meeting followed by a reception. The volunteers are recognized publicly as are the very creative programs in which they work.

Recognizing Youth Volunteers
Submitted by Kathy Sokolan-Oblak, Calgary Parks & Recreation

Every summer we have approximately 500 youth volunteers spread across the city in various facilities such as: pools, leisure centres, area offices, art centres etc.... Rather than having small multiple celebrations, we pool our resources and plan one large event the last Sunday evening before school starts. This year we were able to gain access to one of our Leisure Centre facilities after public hours. The facility closed at 6:00 PM and we started at 6:30 PM We provided pizza and pop from 6:30 - 7:15 PM and then the games begin! Activities include: the wave pool, carnival games set up in the gym with a DJ and prizes, the dunk tank and climbing wall, beauty tips and makeovers, photo booth and craft station, temporary body tattoos, henna painting and great door prizes the last 10 minutes of the evening about 9:15 PM. This is our second year providing this type of recognition event and the attendance increased by 30%.

Volunteer Book Launching with Community Celebration
Submitted by Jude McNabb

Volunteer Nelson NZ has produced a book of volunteer stories and photos. The book is to be launched on December 5, 2007 at a cafe, with a special guest (NZ author) and Darnz Hip Hop Salsa group to perform—a group of young people who mentor and lead others through example. New Zealand delicacies to be cooked and served by two local chefs, with the event organised by a Texan events coordinator and generously supported by DeVille, our local cafe. All generously volunteered to Volunteer Nelson and a very special event for all volunteers in our region. "It's a sign of mediocrity when you celebrate gratitude in moderation." Goooo Volunteers!!!!

Involving Families and Employers

End-of-Year Picnic
Submitted by Bobbi Murphy, Sauk Rapids-Rice School District 47

In the past we used to organize volunteer "teas" at the end of the year to say thank you to our school volunteers. The teas were held after school, in each of the five district school buildings, on days that were different from each other. That way a volunteer who helped in more than one building could conceivably attend two (or more!) different "teas". Our volunteer turn-out usually ranged from mediocre to down-right poor. No big surprise when I look back. The time of day was convenient for teachers and staff but terribly inconvenient for the very people we wanted to recognize-our volunteers! I decided to organize an event that would be more volunteer friendly, one with food, family and friends. Now for the past 4 years, we have had a big end-of-the-year picnic for all the volunteers of the district and their family members, to celebrate the year and their contribution to our schools. There is no meal cost to the volunteer or their family members and we get together around 5:30 pm to accommodate the majority of work schedules. We eat, visit with each other, hear a few words on volunteerism, hand out awards, and that's it! People are able to get out of there within an hour or so. Volunteers appreciate having family members included and being able to get to evening meetings or home at reasonable times. The staff of the district help with decorating, serving food and clean up. Financially, we utilize donations and keep costs down by doing one event rather than 5 separate events. We serve about 200 people hamburgers, salad, chips, a cookie and beverage. Hamburgers are grilled by a local men's service group. It is a great way to end the year!

End-of-Year Picnic
Submitted by Bobbi Murphy, Sauk Rapids-Rice School District 47

In the past we used to organize volunteer "teas" at the end of the year to say thank you to our school volunteers. The teas were held after school, in each of the five district school buildings, on days that were different from each other. That way a volunteer who helped in more than one building could conceivably attend two (or more!) different "teas". Our volunteer turn-out usually ranged from mediocre to down-right poor. No big surprise when I look back. The time of day was convenient for teachers and staff but terribly inconvenient for the very people we wanted to recognize-our volunteers! I decided to organize an event that would be more volunteer friendly, one with food, family and friends. Now for the past 4 years, we have had a big end-of-the-year picnic for all the volunteers of the district and their family members, to celebrate the year and their contribution to our schools. There is no meal cost to the volunteer or their family members and we get together around 5:30 pm to accommodate the majority of work schedules. We eat, visit with each other, hear a few words on volunteerism, hand out awards, and that's it! People are able to get out of there within an hour or so. Volunteers appreciate having family members included and being able to get to evening meetings or home at reasonable times. The staff of the district help with decorating, serving food and clean up. Financially, we utilize donations and keep costs down by doing one event rather than 5 separate events. We serve about 200 people hamburgers, salad, chips, a cookie and beverage. Hamburgers are grilled by a local men's service group. It is a great way to end the year!

A Free Evening
Submitted by Marcia Hale, Chabot Observatory and Science Center

Many volunteers who donate their time to museums or other cultural institutions do so for access to the facility in addition to their interest in the mission of the facility. When it came time to organize a recognition for volunteers at the science center, it was assumed we'd have some sort of recognition dinner.

I felt the best gift we could give our volunteers was a free evening for them and their families in our great facility. The bonus was seeing how easy it was to get staff to volunteer that evening so the volunteers could party. We usually offered some sort of light food in the cafe and had every bit of the center open and free to our volunteers and their friends and families. We always had some sort of food related thank you theme, like Pizza and cake, "Volunteers, thanks for sharing a slice of your time" an ice cream social became, 'OMSI has the scoop on the best volunteers!' Staff truly enjoyed helping out, with the food serving positions usually the job everyone wanted.

The added bonus was hearing staff say the next day how much they enjoyed meeting all the volunteers and seeing how much these people loved our science center. The staff, especially those who didn't work closely with our volunteers, were especially struck by how much our volunteers treasured and valued what they did for us, and how proud they were to "show off" for their families. I almost think the staff looked forward to this yearly event more than some of the volunteers, it was a great way to build camaraderie and a real morale booster. Now, at a new science center, I'm looking forward to continuing this tradition with a new group of volunteers and staff.

Holiday Events as Recognition Opportunities

Low-Cost, High-Impact Life-Changing Recognition
Submitted by LouAnne Smith, Doctors Hospital of Dallas , Texas, USA

This past year, our program lost one of its most beloved volunteers. One month shy of her 90th birthday, she worked two days a week in our laboratory and at one of the hospital information desks. Though frailer in the past few months, she was still at the hospital working the week before she died. At word of her passing, I called the family, to inquire about funeral arrangements. The daughter-in-law informed me that there would likely be no memorial service, because, in her words, "she (the volunteer)didn't really have any friends here." I assured her that the volunteer circle of friends was sizeable, and included many fellow volunteers and hospital staff. The family eventually decided to have a service. Other than family and a few other attendees, the pews were filled exclusively with volunteers and hospital staff. The family was shocked that so many people knew and loved their quiet little mom, and that they had never known about this support system of friends, despite her seven years of involvement as a volunteer at our hospital! Something about this experience troubled me greatly. I fear that many children and spouses, especially of our older volunteers, see their volunteer activities as just something for them to do to keep busy. They really have no idea that their loved ones are doing important, valuable work with our patients. I wanted to find a way to avoid a scene like this with others in our program, if at all possible. Volunteers were asked for the names and addresses of their immediately family - spouses, children, or close friends. They were not told the exact reason for the information - ironically, many assumed we were gathering next of kin info, in the event of their death on the job! With those names, we created a family database. At Christmas, instead of the usual inspirational letter to volunteers, talking about the meaning of the season and their wonderful deeds throughout the year, I wrote letters to each of these on the mailing list. I told them about what their wife, mother, brother, etc. did at our hospital, and how important they were in the lives of our staff, patients and families. Many of those who received letters have called, and told very touching stories of how they read the tributes to "their" volunteer at a family gathering during the holidays. Several said they had the letter framed, and gave it as a gift to their loved one. The volunteers had no idea this was happening, and were moved beyond words. In over 25 years of managing volunteers, I have never done any recognition activity that has had a more profound impact on the timbre of our program, and on the lives of our volunteers! Obviously, this was quite time-consuming (I wrote about 150+ letters), but extremely high-impact on the recipients and, as a bonus, on the author. It really made my holiday season very meaningful. I will continue to look for opportunities to communicate the countless ways our volunteers make a difference to the other people who care so much about them - their families.

Personal Note from Board
Submitted by Mike Corbin, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan , Michigan, USA

Our Board of Directors has a Volunteer Services Committee. These members write a personal, handwritten note to each volunteer who donates anything over four hours during a year. The committee members are given enough information to let them know what work the volunteer has done. The notes are written around Thanksgiving and around Valentine's Day, for those who started volunteering after Thanksgiving. We have recently added a printed note to all our one-time volunteers with the personal signature of the committee chair. This wonderful tradition, which is above and beyond the annual Volunteer Recognition Party, wasn't started by me, but I am happy to be apart of an agency with such caring board members. The response from the volunteers was terrific.

Staff-Made Dinner
Submitted by Corrie McGibney, Village Clinic

I work for an AIDS Service organization where volunteers give their time in a variety of programs and services. Every year we have an annual holiday party for volunteers which has always been an open house style event. This year I asked the staff to help plan something a bit more ambitious - we cooked and served a full course meal! The menu was a choice of turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or a vegetarian pasta dish. Staff volunteered to cook the various dishes, turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, etc., or contributed buns, cranberry sauce, salad dressing, etc. The staff were all assigned jobs; cooks, plate fillers, servers, etc., and all of the staff wore black pants, white shirts and colorful name tags. We had a Christmas tree with donated gifts underneath and drew names for a chance to pick a gift. We utilized space in our multi-purpose room and set beautiful places using rented cutlery and plates. Everyone contributed decorations and we had plenty of candlelight and twinkle lights strung up. Our physicians offered grace and a toast to the volunteers that reaffirmed their value within our organization. All in all, it was a tremendous gift of caring by the staff, and a wonderful experience in feeling appreciated by the volunteers!

Thanks at Thanksgiving
Submitted by M. Judith Nortman, Westside Senior Adult Day Center

The week before Thanksgiving, the Center always recognizes the volunteers with a catered meal and music as a way to show our appreciation and thanks. This year the theme was "Handful of Thanks" with decorations, centerpieces and even the certificates adorned with cookie cutter dough hands. I gave a speech incorporating hands as the theme (right hand men and women, hand you can rely on, etc). The highlight though was the many frail older clients (the receivers of the voluteerism) giving testomonials as to how there lives are better because of these wonderful volunteers.

Thanks into Thanksgiving
Submitted by Heidi Walker, Natrona County Public Library , Wyoming, USA

This fall I decided to put the Thanks into Thanksgiving by sending out hand-made notes to each active volunteer. A very artistic volunteer helped me to make the notes - no two were the same! Then I wrote a short Thanks inside making sure to mention specific things that they had helped with. In addition, I had people from the departments they had volunteered in add something - at the least signing it. They went out right at Thanksgiving and the responce has been lovely, with vounteers coming in specially to thank us for making their day! A Win-win, I think!

Volunteer Luck
Submitted by Jayne Rice, Honeywell Center

Our volunteer dinner last year was held on March 13 using a St. Patrick's Day Theme because we feel 'lucky' to have our volunteers. We used green derby's planted with green and white carnations for centerpieces. Planning ahead we planted shamrock bulbs in green spray painted peat pots as favors at each place setting. We had prints of different Irish Blessings rolled and tied with green ribbon by each plate. Our menu was corned beef and cabbage with potatoes, green salad, and grasshopper pie. For entertainment we had a local clogging group perform. Awards and recognitions were given. Two staff members then sang 'Oh, Danny Boy". To give away the centerpieces we had some silly questions and trivia questions that we asked...such as who: 1. has 13 pennies in their pocket 2. has visited Ireland 3. has an Irish Setter at home 4. knows the legend of St. Patrick 5. showered with Irish Spring today etc, etc. I closed with the Irish Blessing: May the road rise up to meet y! ou... It was another successful program suggested by the words of praise and thank you notes we received.

Volunteers are the Recipe for Success
Submitted by Miranda Prescott & Rachael Park, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau , Washington, USA

Every year we have a potluck holiday party and our volunteers have asked us to print up the recipes from their various co-workers who brought dishes. This year, we created a blank recipe form and mailed it to each volunteer asking for their best recipe. We then compiled the recipes into a cookbook that would be given to each volunteer as a gift at the recognition event. The theme was centered around cooking so we held it at a rustic venue in the country and printed awards on paper designed to look like a picnic. Instead of the generic thank you speeches from the volunteer coordinators, the Executive Director and members of the Board, we created a skit on "What is the recipe that makes up an ideal volunteer" and each official stood up and told the crowd what they think that recipe would be (a cup of smiles mixed with a teaspoon of wit...etc). The message at the end of the skit was that there is not just one recipe that makes up an ideal volunteer. Instead there are many recipes that include the different traits, personalities and styles that make the volunteers so necessary and unique. In the end, we concluded that each volunteer and his/her unique traits are equally valuable in ensuring a successful volunteer program. Kind of like a big, gourmet potluck...

Volunteers and Their History

Quilt Squares
Submitted by Tina Branco, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society , VA, USA

As part of our celebration of 100 years of service, we are combing our archives to produce a complete history, and we asked each of our 54 offices around the world to produce a quilt square. Volunteers then put the quilt together and it is now "touring" our offices so volunteers can see the results of their efforts. Story and picture are also posted on our web site 

Volunteer Hall of Fame
Submitted by Frank Pomata , NY,USA

The coalition of volunteer managers and their agencies on Long Island that came together originally to celebrate IYV2001 decided to remain together and have focused their efforts on creating a "VOLUNTEER HALL OF FAME." The initial honorees were all founders of their respective non-profit/volunteer-driven groups and were recognized at a ceremony in November 2002 at Stony Brook University. A trade-show style display was donated by Fleet Bank and will be touring various venues around Long Island during 2003 to help spread the word about the honorees, as well as the Hall of Fame itself. A calendar featuring the honorees has been printed and is being distributed at this time. We're gearing up for this year's nominations and ceremony too. Just curious -- Does anyone know of any other VOLUNTEER Halls of Fame, in the US or elsewhere??