Thumps up for volunteer appreciationGood job and thank you! These are the words that I ask my students to say every day in my management classes as an exercise to stress the importance of being grateful for your team. We talk a lot about how some managers really struggle with saying these words and how quite often they really only come to you when they have a complaint or concern.

Not volunteer leaders though. Through my own experience leading volunteers and from many volunteer leaders I have met over the years, showing gratitude to your volunteers comes very naturally. 

The concern most volunteer managers have is how to show appreciation for the hours that a person donates for your cause without spending a lot of money or giving away another little tchotchke that will likely end up collecting dust somewhere.

If you ask most volunteers, they will tell you they do not want you spending your hard earned dollars for your program on “stuff” to give them to show your appreciation.

I once had a volunteer who had DONE SO MUCH that I was determined to thank him somehow that would let him know how grateful we were for his deep commitment to our organization. This was a business leader who had donated above and beyond on all levels: time, talent and treasure for several years. He would blatantly say, please don’t buy me a plaque, spend the money to serve more people.

During one of our annual events for which his business was a sponsor, we presented him with a mayoral proclamation that gave details about his outstanding service and honored him as a community leader. He was really touched and we finally felt like we had given him some well-deserved recognition and appreciation.

How much did this cost? Nothing. 

We had to submit a request via the Mayor’s office six weeks in advance, and they sent a representative to officially present it to him.

I’m simply sharing this story so you can see we all are working on finding that special something to help our volunteers know how grateful we are for their service. And of course, we can always say “Good job” and “Thank You” every time we work with them.