Volunteers: they're our life force. We literally couldn't do this work without them. They don't volunteer because they "have the time"; it's because they have the heart. So, let's show them how much we appreciate them. Volunteer Appreciation Week may be in April, but it’s important to show our volunteers love all year long. The simple, genuine act of saying “thank you” is a great start, and here are some other examples of how to showcase your gratitude.
Engage the Team. Create a culture of gratitude by including staff across your organization to brainstorm ideas and write thank you’s. This can be individual notes that get mailed to volunteers or a poster that staff sign. Different roles may have different insights (or team inside jokes), making it even more personalized.
Get Creative. Don't let a lack of budget deter your efforts. Use this opportunity to let your creativity go wild to recognize and celebrate your volunteers. The more fun you have planning, the more others are likely to enjoy it. For example, have big ideas on a tiny pizza party budget? Ramp up the fun factor by making little signs with animals’ photos and cartoon balloons saying, “You have a pizza my heart!”
Volunteer Appreciation Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges—to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.
Here are a few more examples:
Social gathering (to mingle with staff, ideally at all levels): It’s also great to include intro cues, like sharing why they started volunteering; one thing others might not know about them; or even their funniest volunteer stories. You can also share volunteer accomplishments or play videos.
Games (can include prizes or other funny [free] ideas like choosing the names of the next batch of kittens or the theme of the next adoption promotion):
Jeopawty (Set up questions and answers about your org, your animals, volunteer fun facts, or animal welfare in general for volunteers to participate in a competitive game.)
Match the pet to the staff
Yard games (toss water balloons, mini obstacle course, scavenger hunts, etc.)
Video reel of staff expressing gratitude
Video message from your Executive Director and/or board members
Kudo board where staff can each write their thanks to volunteers
Swag: Bonus if the design is hilarious or the item’s super useful. Some examples are collapsible water bowls, magnets with a collage of adoption alum and fosters, t-shirts, or canvas bags with funny graphics and branding.
Staff bring in baked goods or candy
Hand-written thank you cards
Posters with photos of volunteers in action with signed staff thank you’s
Have a resale shop? Offer a discount day for volunteers.
Diversity & Inclusion. It’s essential to show volunteer appreciation in multiple ways. Some may love recognition in front of a group, and others may not. Similarly, some may like the community connection of an event, and others just like a personalized keepsake. By knowing your volunteers, you can make sure your efforts land your genuine gratitude most effectively.
Make a Personal Connection. No matter what you choose to do for volunteer appreciation, the most important aspect of working with volunteers is making them feel welcome and part of the team. Volunteers who are more invested will not only stay longer, but they’re also your best examples of how great the volunteer experience is at your organization, which can come back in multiple ways that benefit the organization: more adoptions, more donations, more volunteers, and move lives saved – together.
Recognizing the hard work and dedication of our volunteers and fosters is always worth it. It will:
Make them happy.
Foster a sense of community.
Improve our outcomes.
When volunteers know they’re making a difference, they feel a sense of pride in their work, which ultimately leads to improved results for your community.