Four Alternative Ways of Thanking Volunteers

Now on its 68th year, National Volunteer Week pays tribute to Canadian volunteers who graciously donate their time and energy to different causes in the country. This year, National Volunteer Week is from April 10 to 16.

This event got me thinking of some of the ways that organizations can thank volunteers. Of course, there’s the typical way of giving reference letters or certificates, but I’m wondering if those tactics are outdated. As a volunteer myself, I know that a reference letter is not always the first thing I have in mind.

National Volunteer Week 2011

After some brainstorming, here are four alternatives that I thought of:

1. Profile volunteers on the organization blog.

Most volunteers are selfless individuals who genuinely would like to help, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t appreciate a public pat on the back. It’s no secret that many employers are starting to Google potential employees, and so profiling volunteers through the organization blog might help volunteers in their career.

Profiling a volunteer will also give possible volunteers an insight on how it would be like to get involved with the organization. This also gives organizations content to place on their blog.  This can be a win-win tactic for the organization and the volunteer.

2. Connect volunteers to possible connections.

One of the many reasons that students volunteer is to expand their network. Volunteer managers should find out what the volunteer’s career goals are and see if they could help out somehow.  Sometimes an introduction can pay bigger dividends for the volunteer than a reference letter.

3. Provide feedback.

For many students, volunteering is a way to develop skills while also helping a good cause. For me, the best places that I’ve volunteered for have always given me feedback. When I started as a blog writer here, for example, I’ve gotten good and constructive feedback on my work, which helped me in improving my writing skills. It may be worthwhile for managers to ask volunteers what they hope to gain from the experience.

4. Give opportunities to mentor others.

The ability to mentor others is an important skill that students might want on their resume. For more senior volunteers, formalizing a process where they mentor newer volunteers might help. This could boost up their self-confidence, and it might give them more challenges and (thus) another reason to stay.

Here at SFU Volunteer Services, blog writers who fulfill their initial six-month commitment could stay with the organization and mentor newer writers. I thoroughly enjoy mentoring new writers, and I’m happy that I’m able to pass on the knowledge I’ve learned as new volunteer.

Your turn – tell us how you want to be thanked!

These are just some ideas, and at the end of the day, how organizations thank their volunteers probably depend on resource availability and organization culture.  It could be that good ‘ol “thank you” will do. For volunteer managers, Volunteer Canada has some great resources regarding this.

So I pose the question back to you – if you’re a volunteer, how would you like to be thanked for your efforts? If you’re a volunteer manager, are there other ways you’ve thanked volunteers in the past that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments.

By Kelvin Claveria

Photo credit: Volunteer.ca