7 Low-Cost Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
Posted Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by Verified Volunteers Staff
We have heard some variation of the following phrase from many volunteer managers and other nonprofit leaders: “We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.” In post-recession America, when many nonprofit organizations continue to operate with very limited staff and resources, volunteers fill in the gaps and provide much-needed support to keep things running smoothly. So it’s natural that you’d want to show gratitude and recognize the tremendous value of their service.
It can be hard to find ways to say “thank you” that are meaningful and offer the recognition your volunteers deserve that don’t cost a fortune. We’ve put together a list of volunteer appreciation ideas that won’t break the bank, but can go a long way in communicating just how much each volunteer’s service means to your organization.
Gifts of Appreciation
1. Handwritten Note
It’s rare for people to write a thank-you note by hand these days, which makes it all the more meaningful to receive one. Even if your organization can’t afford gifts for every volunteer, this is a great and cost-effective way to let them know they are appreciated.
2. Cookies in a Jar
Gifts-in-a-jar are popular around the holidays, but they work just as well as volunteer appreciation gifts. The idea is that you layer the dry ingredients for a recipe (such as cookies) in a mason jar, accompanied by instructions to complete the recipe. They look nice, they’re inexpensive to make, and they are major crowd-pleasers. Here’s a great roundup of 16 gifts-in-jars ideas.
3. Customized Cookbooks
Collect a recipe from each volunteer and group them together to make a cookbook to give out to volunteers. Bonus: You could even design a nice cover and sell the cookbooks at a fundraiser.
4. Small Potted Plants
Small house plants can be very inexpensive, and they make thoughtful gifts if you choose a variety that is easy to care for and will thrive indoors. Here’s a list from Apartment Therapy of the best plants to give as gifts.
Volunteer awards banquets or appreciation dinners are popular, but they can be expensive. If you can get sponsors to cover the costs of food and venue, it’s a wonderful way to recognize volunteers and offer them a memorable event. If it’s just not in the budget, here are some impactful alternatives:
5. Go to the Movies
Rent out a local movie theater for an afternoon. Hold your volunteer awards ceremony, followed by the movie. (Tip: Choose a family-friendly movie or offer a choice of two movies.) If renting out the theater is too expensive, ask the theater if they will donate movie tickets to give as gifts to your volunteers.
6. Backyard Cookout
Instead of an elaborate banquet, invite all of your volunteers for a festive, informal gathering like a summer barbecue. Have your staff provide the food and treat the volunteers as the guests of honor.
7. Social Outing
Take your volunteers on a trip to a local museum or other cultural activity in your area. This provides them with the opportunity to get to know each other better and socialize away from the usual setting. If space and budget permits, allow them to invite a guest.
Recognizing and honoring your volunteers is an important part of creating a great volunteer experience. If you don’t have a large budget for gifts, use the volunteer appreciation ideas above to recognize your volunteers’ contributions and let them know how much you value their service.
Note: Ideas 3, 5, and 7 were inspired by Energize, Inc’s website so be sure to check out their full list of volunteer appreciation ideas.
Tom Klein founded Verified Volunteers and leads their mission to propel service organizations and nonprofits by empowering volunteers. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn or Google+.