5 Ways to Show Volunteers Appreciation

Appreciating volunteers begins with KNOWING them. How well do you know your volunteers?

I started my job as a Volunteer Coordinator in 2020 at the height of COVID restrictions. I needed to connect and show appreciation when no one was meeting in person. And, I quickly learned that even when volunteers are not serving, they want to feel valued and connected. I had to think outside the box and get creative fast! Here are some ways I found to be effective.

Develop a list of volunteer “favorites.”
Create a “favorites form” in which volunteers can share their preferred candy, restaurant, coffee order, color, hobby, etc. Keep these forms on file to use as needed. Not only will you be ready to show appreciation when the time is right, but you’ll also know exactly what to purchase to make a lasting impression.

Meet in person and connect.
We all want to be seen and heard. Create opportunities for volunteers to connect with each other and you. It offers community, often when people need it the most.

  • Small Group Gatherings – Invite a small group of volunteers to a birthday lunch or coffee/tea to celebrate each other.
  • Open House – Pick a place and period of time for volunteers to come by and see you. Offer an incentive or reason for the visit. Perhaps they can pick up their new nametag, t-shirt or a homemade cookie? Some have the flexibility to stay for a minute or an hour. I recently ordered new nametags for volunteers and set up select pick-up times at the church Connection Point. They dropped in when they could and were able to connect with me and other volunteers.
  • 1-on-1 Visit – I offer to meet with volunteers one on one for coffee or tea. I put a note in my newsletters with contact information and a zoom option.

Create special jobs.
Everyone wants to feel special. Offer opportunities that no one else is doing.

  • Project Based – Find new projects a volunteer can “own.” I’ve delegated our bathroom baskets (complementary personal items available in every bathroom during special events) to a key volunteer. She assembles, helps order supplies, and oversees during the events. You might also recruit someone to organize supplies or assemble gifts.
  • Leadership Roles – establish trust and confidence in key volunteers. At larger events, I have volunteers oversee drinks, registration, ushering, bathroom baskets and more. Volunteers are empowered, and I’m freed up to work on other things.

Set them apart.
Create ways to visually recognize your volunteers.

  • Nametags – Offer special nametags to use at events. I also utilize “Here to Serve” ribbons that attach to any nametag.
  • T-shirts – Create a “Welcome” t-shirt (possibly used by multiple volunteer teams) or an event t-shirt.
  • Lanyards – Buy a special lanyard that is specific to your church, ministry area or event.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

  • Email – Follow up with a thank you email after every event for which a volunteer has signed up.
  • Mail – Establish a birthday calendar and mail a handwritten card to celebrate their special day. You might also include a gift card or flat item (i.e. seed packet, bookmark, bible verse) that fits in the envelope.
  • Zoom – Offer a Zoom link to meet virtually when someone is sick or can’t meet in person.
  • In Person – Stop by their home. I coordinated driveway meetups, put Thank You signs in their yards, and dropped off one of their “favorites” (from the list mentioned above).

As we recoup after Easter, I encourage you to find ways to thank your volunteers and stay connected. Pick an idea to implement during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, April 16-22!

Kari (pronounced “car-ee”) Niehaus joined the ShareChurch staff in 2020, after volunteering over the years in Children’s Ministry, Small Group Ministry, and Community Outreach. After leaving the business world, she pursued a College Counseling Certificate and worked for 9 years as a College Counselor and Mentor to first generation college bound students. In her free time, Kari hikes, reads, plays golf, and travels. She is married to her best friend and has 3 grown children in New York, Denver, and Los Angeles.