In a day and age where everyone is permanently stressed, it's important to find the right words to thank volunteers who take time from their busy lives to help out. Volunteering takes time and energy and, to state the obvious, it's not like they're getting paid. Use your words - or our words of appreciation - to let your volunteers know how profoundly appreciated they are.
The first reason to thank your volunteers, obviously, is that it's 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. Volunteers should come away from a project feeling appreciated and validated for their contributions.
The second reason is more "pragmatic." That sounds much nicer than "devious." When you go out of your way to thank your volunteers, to offer your heartfelt and genuine gratitude, they're a lot more likely to keep volunteering. A great "thank you" note means more warm bodies, and that's how the work gets done.
As in so many things, if you're struggling, default to the Golden Rule. 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 came from somebody sweating over a word processor, even - especially - if it did. Also, if you really are sweating over that word processor and aren't happy with the results, we've got you covered. Take a look at our words for thank you notes for inspiration.
Here are a few simple phrases that you can mix and match for all your volunteer praising needs.
Thanks for all you do! We couldn't get along without you.
Your team makes our dream work.
We at [insert organization here] are so grateful for your hard work!
Thank you for your time and patience. We love our volunteers!
All your work is warmly appreciated.
Your group was AMAZING! Thank you for thinking of us!
Thank you for all your time and hard work!
Your help was so important to our project!
We owe [insert project here] to your hard work and dedication!
We'll never forget your hard work. Thank you!
Restrain the urge to put something about volunteering again in your "thank you" message. You can follow up with the volunteer after the project. For now, gratitude comes first.
When in doubt, use both. A simple, spoken "you guys are doing great" word of kindness to your volunteers counts for a lot, especially when it comes on a regular basis.
Written praise is best saved for special occasions, or when someone has 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 late husband's death, that's kindness you can't buy for love nor money. Make sure they know about it.
On a holiday, a birthday, or the anniversary of the volunteer joining your organization, a card and a cookie (or suitable snack of your choice) never goes amiss. What matters is that your volunteer feels validated, that they know you know how important their work is to your project.
Gifts are also welcome. We know your budget probably doesn't stretch to anything lavish, but a gift card to favorite store or coffee shop is a great way to say "thanks."
Never pass up a chance to thank your volunteers. It's one of those wonderful situations where doing the right thing also increases your chance of success. For more on charity, take a look at our sister site, LoveToKnow. They've got even more help for thanking volunteers and showing your appreciation.