National Volunteer Week: Make Sure Your Thank You Means Something
With National Volunteer Week underway, it’s the perfect time to thank your volunteers for all they do. More importantly, understanding how they want to be appreciated will allow associations to provide more meaningful recognition.
As associations celebrate National Volunteer Week, many are taking the time to show volunteers how much they are appreciated and valued. But are your volunteers connecting with these gestures?
Elisa Brewer Pratt, MA, CAE, founder and CEO of Brewer Pratt Solutions, shared ways that associations can acknowledge volunteers during National Volunteer Week and throughout the year in a way that will make them feel appreciated and encourage them to continue engaging.
Start With Board Members
Asking volunteers how they want to be appreciated is the best way to provide meaningful outreach. Since it’s impossible to ask each of them for their input, Pratt suggests starting with board members.
For example, the CEO can weave the topic into conversations during the next board retreat or include a question about how prospective volunteer leaders want to be recognized in board-nomination materials.
“Ask board members about their most valuable form of communication and how they enjoy or appreciate being recognized,” Pratt said.
Add a Personal Touch
Even if associations don’t know how their larger volunteer community wants to be recognized, employing a personal approach can make a big impact—whether it’s a handwritten note, a birthday message, or a phone call.
“It’s not just a kind word from your executive director or board chair: get more people involved,” Pratt said. “Ask members to call one another or ask staff if they have capacity to call a member and say thank you. Peer-to-peer connections carry a lot of meaning and help reinforce that you genuinely care about your members.”
Technology can help associations automate these personal recognitions for members. Pratt recommends creating a content calendar that tracks anniversaries, birthdays, and other member spotlights on a weekly or monthly basis. She also encourages associations to take a DIY approach to messages of gratitude, especially on social media.
“Recording a 10-second video thanking your chair or sending a congratulatory message to a committee member can be really meaningful ways to express appreciation and gratitude,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to use video or social media to reach out whenever possible, whether it’s a birthday or a congratulations or a thank you.”
Spotlight Their Know-How
In addition, highlighting members as subject matter experts can be a meaningful way for associations to show that they appreciate and value them.
“It’s not always about saying thank you; it’s also how you spotlight their achievements and expertise,” Pratt said. “That appreciation can take on many forms, such as finding ways to feature their content, putting them on panels, providing them with tools and resources for professional development, or asking them to author articles on your website or newsletter.”
Showcasing the knowledge and expertise of volunteers doesn’t only bring benefits to them; it also helps raise the quality and value of association content and other offerings.
“Providing members with the tools they need to succeed as leaders allows them to best serve your organization and helps them on a personal and professional level,” Pratt said. “It’s holistic, and it feels sincere for your members.”