By Sarah Welch, YNPN Des Moines Professional Development chair and Communications Director at Prevent Child Abuse Iowa
With 5,000 volunteers helping out at Central Iowa Shelter & Services each year, volunteer coordinator AJ Olson knows just how important recognizing these key players in a non-profit can be. At our April discussion group kicking off National Volunteer Week , AJ offered our YNPN members a few ideas of how to thanks throughout the year:
• During Volunteer Week, every regular volunteer receives a handwritten thank you note directly from AJ that offers a personal reflection on that person’s service. AJ has treats available during each shift and works his schedule so that he can personally thank as many volunteers as possible.
• Throughout the year, Vista members and other volunteers are recognized with fun certificates when they do something out of the ordinary like sort through 160 boxes of t-shirts or stay calm during a tense situation. The most memorable award went to Gov. Terry Branstad for making a kit at a 9/11 volunteer event. AJ said the awards may seem silly but volunteers hold onto them and talk about them long after receiving them.
• AJ keeps a photo of every volunteer on file and makes sure he and the people working with that volunteer get to know that person. Sometimes he’ll sit down with a volunteer and have a conversation not related to the task at hand, and at the end, thank the volunteer for their support.
These kinds of personal touches have led to a steady base of volunteer support without having to do much recruiting, AJ said. Not only do volunteers who feel valued tend to stay with the organization longer, but they also draw other volunteers to your organization.
How do you recognize volunteers? Share your ideas in the comments!