In a day and age where everyone is stressed to the max, it's especially important to come up with the right words to thank volunteers. People who somehow find the time and energy to throw themselves into a cause can't be thanked enough! Even so, there are ways to let them know exactly how truly appreciated their time and efforts are.
The first reason you need to say thanks, obviously, is that it's simply the right thing to do. No one, no matter how dedicated they are to a cause or an issue, wants to feel that they're unimportant or that their hard work doesn't matter. Everyone needs to be appreciated, and it gives satisfaction to be told how important they are to whatever issue they are dedicating themselves to.
The second reason is perhaps a little more cagey. That is, when you go out of your way to find the right words to thank volunteers, they will keep volunteering!
It's extremely easy to find any number of reasons to avoid volunteering. Your job is to show your volunteers how appreciated they are, and what a good job they're doing, so they'll want to keep coming back.
Like with most things, put yourself in their place. How would you want to be thanked? Would a one-time word of appreciation do it for you? Or would you want your good works to be noticed more regularly?
Of course it helps if your words are natural. No volunteer wants to think that the pat on the back is something someone had to work on doing!
If it doesn't come naturally, and the words don't express gratitude in a normal human fashion, your volunteers will probably pick up on it. That kind of phoniness does no one any favors.
That's up to you, but there's actually no reason why you can't do both! A regular word of kindness to volunteers for the job they do always is noticed and appreciated, especially when you say it right after they've done something wonderful.
Say a volunteer works in a nursing home, helping elderly and sick people get some measure of happiness in their lives. If the volunteer stays late to cover another volunteer's shift, or if they take a special interest in the sadness of a widow on the anniversary of her dead husband's death, that's a measure of true kindness you can't buy for love or money.
When someone goes out of their way, you should do the same to let them know how valued they are for what they do.
On a holiday, or a birthday, or the anniversary of the volunteer joining your organization, it would be a good thing to write that person a note. You can use nice notepaper, or buy a card that expresses your sentiments.
Something along the lines of, "Thank you for all the good you do! We couldn't get along without you!" is a pleasant example.
Depending upon you or your organization's budget, you might also want to tuck a giftcard into the envelope.
Not everyone who volunteers is wealthy. In fact, some volunteers could probably use someone to help them! The idea of providing a tangible memento of thanks for a selfless job well done is a kind and decent thing to do.
It doesn't have to be a huge amount of money. A $10 giftcard to Starbucks or to a bookstore may be exactly the kind of treat your volunteer wouldn't spend on himself, but it might be the thing that would delight him nonetheless - and let him know that his efforts were truly and warmly appreciated.
Never pass up a chance to find the words to thank volunteers. Being kind always brings a ton of rewards, to the giver and recipient alike!