Your volunteers are the backbone of your nonprofit — they’re always there to help you power your mission. So how can you express gratitude for their passion and commitment? By planning an appreciation event in their honor!
While an appreciation event is a great way to show volunteer gratitude, planning that event definitely has its challenges. Between preparing engaging event activities, managing an RSVP list, and creating a celebration that truly uplifts your volunteers, there’s a lot you need to do. But with the right team and enough preparation time, you can pull off your best volunteer appreciation event yet. When planning your volunteer appreciation event, you should:
And if your volunteer event goes well, consider making appreciation events a recurring part of your event calendar. Regular volunteer appreciation events can improve retention rates, connect them to your cause more deeply, and ensure volunteers stay involved with your mission.
Volunteer appreciation events also have the added benefit of raising awareness about your nonprofit. Not only will your volunteers feel valued, but you’ll also show the rest of your community the hard work they do to forward your mission. Let’s get started!
Assemble a team.
Planning a great event requires a great team. With more hands on deck, you can put more effort into the details that will make your appreciation event special.
What roles should each of your team members play? That’s easy — look to recruit:
Event chair: This person (who could be you!) oversees the entire event. They will steer your event and marketing strategy as well as offering the main creative ideas that go into the planning process. The event manager will keep everyone on track to be sure everything is ready before the event.
Communications leader: The communications leader is responsible for ensuring that your volunteers learn about and attend the event. They will create a marketing strategy and lead outreach efforts to connect with volunteers.
Budget manager: The budget manager will ensure that your team does not exceed the funds allocated to the appreciation event. They can also help determine cost effective options for decorations, gifts, and other expenses that still feel special to your volunteers.
Head of logistics: Especially if your appreciation event is happening virtually, you’ll need someone to manage scheduling and logistics. That’s where your head of logistics comes in. They can help keep the event running smoothly while ensuring every volunteer feels honored.
Ideally, your team of planners should have some connection with your volunteers. Part of what has kept your volunteers engaged is their relationships with your staff. Tapping into those connections in the planning process can ultimately make it more meaningful. Be sure to invite your volunteer coordinators to the appreciation event too.
Emphasize volunteer impact.
When you’re planning a fundraising event, you show your donors the impact that their contributions can make. This helps them feel that their donation really made a difference.
Use the same approach for your volunteer appreciation event. Show and tell volunteers how their commitment and time makes a difference. This helps volunteers feel appreciated and that their hard work was worth it. Measuring each volunteer’s impact makes every volunteer feel valued at your event, including:
Encourage your nonprofit’s Director or Board President to speak: Your nonprofit’s leaders can be powerful and effective communicators of your mission. Have them speak and thank your volunteers. Ask them to highlight the work you’ve achieved in the past year and how volunteers contributed to your mission’s success.
Be specific: When highlighting your volunteers’ accomplishments, be as specific as possible. Share exact numbers or tangible goals that your volunteers helped your nonprofit create. Go the extra mile, and give highly dedicated volunteers special recognition.
Invite beneficiaries to the event: If your nonprofit frequently works with a specific group of people, such as children or the elderly, invite them to your volunteer appreciation event. Your constituents can express their gratitude to your volunteers directly, and their presence will be especially meaningful.
Whatever you do, put impact at the center of your volunteer appreciation event. It’s the best way to showcase your volunteers’ work and make them feel central to your mission.
Publicly recognize your volunteers.
Public recognition is one of the best ways to make your volunteers feel valued and important to your organization. Use the appreciation event to your advantage by recognizing attendees and sharing the event with your other supporters.
Here’s how you can recognize your volunteers before, during, and after your appreciation event:
Live-stream the appreciation event: If you want to share your volunteer appreciation event experience with your supporters, live-stream your event on your website and social media platforms. This way, everyone can see what you’re doing to recognize your valuable volunteers.
Spotlight volunteers on social media: Before or after the appreciation event, you can spotlight your volunteers on your social media accounts. Post a picture of the honored volunteer, share some highlights of their service, and a bit of information about them.
Share photos from the event: After your appreciation event is over, share photos of the event across all of your platforms. Send photos to your volunteers with a thank you note showing your gratitude for their attendance and hope that they will continue working with your organization.
Giving your volunteers public recognition makes them feel like an integral part of their wider community. They can also share their accomplishments with friends and family more easily. And who knows — you might even inspire more people to get involved and volunteer!
Get creative with your appreciation gifts.
Although your volunteers don’t work with your organization for free perks, providing a token of your appreciation can deepen their connections with your organization. And what better way to end your volunteer appreciation event than surprising everyone with an impact gift?
But coming up with unique volunteer appreciation gifts can be tricky, especially if you have a limited budget. Consider these creative appreciation gifts:
Branded tote bag: Your volunteers are already passionate about your organization, so why not give them a branded tote bag to represent your nonprofit wherever they go? A branded tote bag lasts longer than a t-shirt or potted plant and can be used for many different activities. Plus, for environmentally conscious nonprofits, a reusable bag even aligns with your mission!
Physical display: A physical display in your facilities might be ideal for volunteer fundraisers who have made significant contributions to your nonprofit with their peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns or other initiatives. Even if the display is temporary, such as a colorful poster display, it can still be impactful for your volunteers.
Thank you video: Film everyone on your team thanking your volunteers for their hard work. Not only is a video personal, but volunteers can keep it for years to come and share it with friends and family.
However you decide to thank your volunteers, make your gift meaningful. A personal touch can go a long way to help volunteers feel integral to your nonprofit. Even a handwritten thank you note specifying how each volunteer has made a difference will make each person feel appreciated. In short, it doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it comes from the heart!
Volunteer appreciation is essential to retain these dedicated supporters. By hosting a volunteer appreciation event, you’ll demonstrate your gratitude for their hard work while showing off the huge difference that they’ve made. Be sure to thank each volunteer individually if you can during the event — connecting with everyone one-on-one can help forge even stronger relationships. Good luck!