Recognizing and Appreciating Volunteers

By Rose Santini, Chief National Programs Officer

National Volunteer Week debuted in the United States in 1974 and has continued to grow every year since. In his proclamation declaring National Volunteer Week, President Richard Nixon urged all Americans to observe the week by seeking out a volunteer opportunity. He also called upon all communities to “recognize volunteers by observing the week with special ceremonies to honor those who have given countless hours for the betterment of our communities and the American way of life.”

The 2020 National Volunteer Week will be commemorated April 19-25.  If there is any group of people who deserve celebration for their hard work, dedication, and their desire to improve the lives of young people, it’s HOBY volunteers!  HOBY volunteers don’t just offer lip service to the ideas of stronger communities and motivated youth.  They are on the front lines making it happen.

Ambassadors have no idea of the work that goes on between that first recruitment call and the end of an exhilarating seminar, but we know that pulling off a successful HOBY program does not happen by magic (well, maybe just a little “HOBY magic”.)  It takes months and months of planning, meetings, phone calls, and emails on top of budget management, venue negotiations, speaker communications, and meal coordination.  HOBY volunteers work year-round, often giving up their nights, weekends, vacations, and even lunch hours in service to HOBY.  They are asked to wear many hats, such as a salesperson, event coordinator, financial manager, and cheerleader – sometimes all in the same day!

It is because HOBY volunteers pour so much of themselves into HOBY that it is important to honor and celebrate their service. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we would like to share fun and free ways to let the volunteers in your program know they are appreciated.

  • Have a rotating award. Provide volunteer recognition at every meeting by having a rotating award that gets given to the person who has demonstrated the best effort on a project or achieved a goal that was set at the last meeting.
  • Send a letter of recognition to their boss.  Many HOBY volunteers juggle their volunteer service with busy careers. By sending a message to your volunteer’s place of work expressing your appreciation of their employee’s talents, you can give that volunteer a positive boost that his or her supervisor will reflect on positively.
  • Sharing a video message from your leadership team, commending volunteers
  • Hosting an online meetup to thank and encourage volunteers
  • Scheduling a one-on-one video or phone call with key volunteers to thank them for their contributions and ask for their ideas
  • Posting a volunteer slideshow on your social media, using pictures from previous events
  • Calling volunteers to check on them and say thank you
  • Celebrate birthdays. Take the time to show volunteers that you care by sending them birthday cards. Or, if your team has monthly meetings, be sure to recognize or celebrate any team member with a birthday that month.
  • Give out awards – with a twist. Giving out awards based on hours or years of service is excellent, but why not spice things up with unique award titles created by your team?  Awards like, “Best Collection of HOBY T-Shirts,” or “Most Likely to Lose Their Voice from Cheers,” and “Jack of All Trades” can be a fun and humorous way to recognize volunteers.

Volunteers are the heart of our organization. Volunteers are the backbone of what we do! We couldn’t do it without you, volunteers! Sometimes it seems like everything being said about the role of volunteers at nonprofits is cliché, but…it’s also true. Without volunteers donating their time and passion to the cause they care about, most nonprofits would be sunk. Thank you for all you do and know we deeply appreciate YOU!

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