As a volunteer at my church, I have first hand knowledge on what it is like to be a volunteer. It is something I feel lead to do and am very excited about having the opportunity to pour myself my volunteer job every week. When I started, I was amazed at all of the resources available to me from training outlines to twice yearly leadership training.
Now after several years, I realize that having that “help” makes what I do a sweeter and more pleasant experience. I give all of the credit to the incredible staff and how they value all of their volunteers. They have learned the art of volunteer retention by appreciating volunteers and they do it well. They did it by realizing what volunteers needed and making sure that they were filling that need.
From that experience I have come up with 8 tips that your church can institute now or in the coming weeks that will show your volunteer staff how much they are appreciated.
8 Tips on Appreciating Volunteers:
Create opportunities to get your volunteers connected.
Volunteers are serving because they believe in your mission. They also have a desire to get something in return, like connections, community and an opportunity to use their gifts. Your volunteer teams can be a great place for people to make deeper connections with others that believe in the same mission or cause. So whether it is a special volunteer room with snacks and coffee, an annual appreciation picnic or even a semi-regular team night to allow them to connect with others, help them get connected with other volunteers.
Feed Your Volunteers.
Food is a great way to make volunteers feel appreciated. At my church, we ask them to get there early or to work a little longer so it seems like an easy task to make sure they have coffee, soda, doughnuts or granola bars available. If you really want to appreciate your volunteers, then serve them two meals (breakfast and lunch) and make it a special opportunity only available to those who serve.
Surprise and Delight.
I love this phrase, we use it a lot when we are planning events at SALT. But if you can give your volunteers a little bit of the unexpected, you’ll be inadvertently showing your appreciation. Just like the way you’d surprise your spouse, find ways to surprise your volunteers. Here are some ideas: send them a birthday card with a $5 Starbucks or Chick-fil-a gift card, Give them a shout out on social media, sing happy birthday to them as a group, create nicknames, etc. This is a great tip on appreciating volunteers that will create culture too.
What if you could provide special VIP parking for those who are serving? Since we typically ask our volunteers to show up early then how cool would it be to take the hassle of finding a parking place away from them. Give them a special tag for their car that gives them access to parking in the volunteer parking area. If your church doesn’t want volunteers getting the preferred parking, another idea would be to offer exclusive door-to-door shuttles for them to park on the other side of the lot. This way when it rains, snows or is just not great weather, they don’t have to worry about messing with it.
Seek their feedback and opinion.
Volunteers are on the front lines of your organization, so what better way to learn how you can make things better than asking the volunteers. It is very easy to grab a volunteer and ask to go out for coffee so that you can pick their brain. Whenever someone feels like their opinion is valued, you’ve also shown them how much you appreciate the role they have on your team. Help them feel part of the team by contributing to larger decisions or details, by simply “running an idea by them”. This is an easy way to increase your appreciation of your volunteers.
Everyone loves a handwritten note. This is a huge “appreciation” giver and it’s so easy! This one small task, that may only take 2 minutes of your time, will be remembered for a very long time. And don’t just do it on a birthday, when they may expect it. Do this on a completely random day. Write a note telling them how much you appreciate their time and service.
Keep them in the loop.
With all the technology, available to us, this should be an easy to institute. Every week, your volunteers should be getting updates from you about things happening at the church. Most people have FOMO (fear of missing out) and this applies to volunteers too. Letting them be the first to know about things coming up will be a big encourager to them. Anyone who feels like they have the inside scoop, will be more loyal, more invested and more patient when things don’t go as planned. Start appreciating volunteers by simply helping them be in the “know.”
Continual Learning / Education.
Another key reason people sign up to volunteer in tech or creative ministry, is because they may learn new things! What if you were to do regular training events to help them learn new things? Bring in an outside speaker? Sign up for SALT University and give them all access, or simply have an opportunity to work one-on-one with each volunteer from time to time and help them know that you want to see them grow. They will appreciate the extra attention and you’ll be appreciating volunteers in the process on a very intentional basis.
There you have it! Our 8 tips on appreciating volunteers. What are various ways that you show your volunteer teams how much they mean to you? Let us know in the comments below!