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Five Creative Volunteer Recognition Ideas


Every April, we celebrate National Volunteer Week — a time to recognize the power of volunteers and their profound impact on advancing important social issues, improving our communities and changing our world. But a successful volunteer management plan requires more than one week of gratitude. Nonprofit leaders and organizations must make volunteers feel valued 365 days a year. Use these volunteer recognition ideas to jump-start your creativity in showing volunteer appreciation — during National Volunteer Week and year-round.

Five Volunteer Recognition Ideas

  1. SEND A DIFFERENT KIND OF THANK-YOU MESSAGE: While hand-written notes are nice, nothing beats true gratitude from the individuals and families your volunteers help you serve. Capture a 30 or 60-second video message (smartphone works great) from one of your constituents thanking the volunteer by name and sharing how their support has personally impacted them. Send it in an email with a note on behalf of your organization.
  2. TELL THEIR EMPLOYER: If your volunteer is using their skills and talents to help advance your mission, consider sending an email or letter to their employer sharing how their expertise is improving your community.
  3. MAKE THEIR VALUE VIRAL: Recognize your volunteers with a short story on your social media channels that their friends and family can share to brag about their loved ones. Being recognized by peers means a lot and is an easy and inexpensive way to make your volunteers feel special.
  4. REPLACE THE PLAQUE WITH A PERSONAL KEEPSAKE: No one needs or wants another plaque or paper certificate to stuff in a drawer, attic box or (gasp) the trash. Instead, consider giving your volunteers something special to display in their home or office, like a piece of art created by one of the individuals you serve (e.g., framed drawing or painting). This is especially meaningful when it comes from a child, a person with disabilities, etc. A personal message on the back adds even more meaning.
  5. DO SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE: Although it’s wonderful to have an occasion like National Volunteer Week, it’s most special when you receive a thank-you out of the blue. Surprise your volunteer during a time when they aren’t expecting it with a $10 gift card with a note, flowers or another modest gesture of gratitude.

Get Your Certificate in Volunteer Management

In addition to developing creative volunteer recognition ideas and finding ways to show appreciation throughout the year, earn your Certificate in Volunteer Management from NLC to master best practices for relevant and successful volunteer management.

Specifically, you will learn how to …

  • Plan your volunteer program
  • Recruit and place volunteers
  • Orient and train volunteers
  • Supervise volunteers effectively
  • Evaluate your volunteer program

“Thank you so much for offering this Volunteer Management Certificate program. The concepts and ideas that were presented will allow us to improve our well-established volunteer program. I’m very excited about working with my Volunteer Advisory Council to improve our impact and awareness.”

Yvonne Marrone, Guardian ad Litem Program

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The Certificate in Volunteer Management consists of three half-days of interactive and practical training in the best practices relevant to today’s volunteer manager. The curriculum is designed by Hands On Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute.

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