Recognising and rewarding volunteers is an essential part of best practice for volunteer management. When volunteers feel appreciated and important, they are more likely to feel connected to your organisation and continue their involvement.  

Recognition also helps to build self-esteem and confidence and recognises the contribution that the volunteers make to your organisation and the people you support or the services that you offer.  

Below are some ways in which you can thank your volunteers:  

  • Celebrate your volunteers all year round 
    Make sure you value and recognise your volunteers throughout the year. 
  • Understand what motivates your volunteers 
    Each volunteer is donating their time for a different motivation. Understanding these motivations is very important in being able to show your thanks in a way they will appreciate. For example, a student volunteer might appreciate training opportunities more than a retired volunteer. 
  • Say thank you 
    This is the easiest and probably most effective way to recognise your volunteers. And it’s free! Say thanks to your volunteers often and be sincere and specific when you do it. You can say thanks informally – in person, on the telephone, email or card and/or formally at special events. Make sure everyone understands why you have volunteers and why they are so vital to your organisation. 
  • Call and check in on them
    Make a personal call to volunteers to chat and catch up. If possible, also offer assistance from your organisation if they need it. These calls will allow you to form an individual bond with each volunteer you contact, and volunteers will remember that you and your organisation care for them outside of their volunteering role.  
  • Show them they are part of the team 
    Volunteers are an integral part of any organisation, not an add-on service. Making them feel like part of the team is incredibly important and you can ensure this very simply by giving them a uniform, a volunteer badge or t-shirt. Good communication is equally important: involving volunteers in newsletters, staff emails, or team meetings is a simple way to involve a volunteer. 
  • Listen to your volunteers and actively seek their feedback 
    Volunteers can provide a fresh perspective about your organisation’s mission and best practices. By asking them directly for feedback, you show them how much you value and recognize their ideas. Gather this feedback by directly talking to them, having a suggestion box in the office, or sending out a survey. 
  • Dedicate a blog post to thanking your volunteers 
    Make your post heartfelt and personal, sharing real anecdotes and stories from your volunteers. It is also important to give credit for the amazing work your organisation has been able to accomplish. Send out the article in a newsletter or through social media to ensure that volunteers see it. 
  • Post about your volunteers on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. 
    Write a note and take pictures of all the volunteers who support your group. Make these posts weekly or monthly or highlight a different volunteer every post to give it more structure. Use a fun graphic or photo to make the post something that volunteers want to share on their personal channels. * NB not all volunteers use social media so ensure they are recognised in other ways.  
  • Certificates 
    This is a great way to recognise the contribution of your volunteers. Certificates can be printed and posted or sent electronically and be awarded based on the length of service, for the number of hours given or as a general token of thanks. 
  • Social Events 
    Many volunteers are motivated to get involved to meet new people. Organising a volunteer social activity is a great way to bring all your volunteers together, and regular interaction with your volunteers helps to keep them inspired and motivated. 
  • Training 
    Properly training volunteers, and offering training throughout, shows that you value them and want to invest in them. This is especially true for volunteers motivated to improve their skills and employability, or those applying for higher education/employment. Plus, training your volunteers is a win-win situation! 
  • Volunteer awards 
    Show your appreciation and nominate volunteers for awards. Or, you could put on your own internal awards! Remember to always be fair and make sure that all volunteers are supported, valued and recognised. 
  • Volunteers are ambassadors! 
    Remember that a happy volunteer is a great ambassador for your project and organisation. If you haven’t done so already – thank your volunteers today! 
  • Collect and display photos
    A picture is worth a thousand words! Gather a collection of photos of volunteers at work, services they provided, or communities they served to remind volunteers of the importance of their work. 
  • Tell volunteers about the impact they are contributing towards 
    Inform volunteers about the impact they are making in your organisation and community. Include statistics if these are readily available. Volunteers can then see the difference that they are making and what has been achieved as a direct result of their volunteering.  

Limited time and resources?  

Top Tip – Taking time to recognise and value your volunteers is important and it doesn’t have to cost you anything or take up much of your time. 

Here is a list of some things you can do with limited time and resources. 

  • Say thank you after the session or completion of volunteer hours and tell them what they did well that day. 
  • Offer to give a reference when they apply for a job. 
  • Make an effort to introduce volunteers to other volunteers to build friendships. 
  • Make your volunteers time commitment meaningful with tasks and responsibilities ready for when they arrive. 
  • Promote volunteers to new roles that leverage their skills and abilities. 
  • Send volunteers personalised notes on birthdays / other special dates or send out a thank you card. 
  • Nominate your volunteer for an award. 
  • Organise a social event e.g. afternoon tea or BBQ 
  • Exit interview – your volunteer will leave eventually, take time to have a chat with them to get their feedback did they feel supported and recognised? 
  • Pay expenses quickly 
  • Thank your volunteer on a day of significance for your organisation or charity when you are already doing something, Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June) and International Volunteer Day (5 December) are also good occasions to celebrate volunteers. 
  • Celebrate volunteer of the month or at regular points during the year 

Gifts 

Some organisations may choose to thank their volunteers by buying them small gifts such as flowers or chocolates. It is good practice to avoid giving anything that sets a precedent for expectation on the part of the volunteer.  

It is also important not to give gifts that the volunteer can benefit from financially such as money, vouchers, tokens and gifts of appreciable value, as these may be liable for taxation or could affect those claiming state benefits. Care should be taken with gifts that may be regarded as a ‘perk’ (something that the volunteer gains in exchange for volunteering). This may contribute to the creation of a contract with the volunteers, giving them employment status with the associated rights.