6 Ways to Pay Your Volunteers (Even When You Can't Pay Them)
Like many others in the charitable sector, your nonprofit organization is probably heavily dependent on volunteers.
Those people freely give their time, and some of them may be so talented and dedicated that you wish there were money in the budget to make them full-time, paid members of the team.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can show gratitude for your volunteers, even without giving them money.
1. Offer to Write Letters of Recommendation
Volunteering is an activity that looks fantastic on a resume. It can be a career-booster, even without direct influence from your organization.
However, some of your volunteers might appreciate a personalized nod of approval when they’re trying to make career changes. You can convey appreciation for volunteers by writing letters of recommendation for them.
Instead of just telling volunteers to write letters that you approve and sign later, take time out of your schedule to personalize the document.
Go into detail about the specific character traits people show that help them excel as volunteers and are equally advantageous in income-earning positions.
2. Send Heartfelt Thank-You Notes
People love opening their mailboxes and seeing things inside that aren’t bills or advertisements. You can delight volunteers by creating handwritten thank-you notes that emphasize just how glad you are that the people associated willingly contribute their time and effort.
When possible, angle the content of a letter so it directly describes the impact a person has on an organization and how it’d be impossible to achieve the same output without that assistance. Individuals want confirmation that they’re spending their time in beneficial ways, and this gesture provides that.
3. Maintain a Positive, Respectful Work Environment
Statistics show that volunteering improves mood, decreases stress levels and makes volunteers feel healthier. However, it could be difficult for volunteers to notice those benefits and others if the respective organizations have extremely negative atmospheres or make employees feel worthless.
It’s crucial to keep the setting as upbeat and inclusive as possible. When applicable, ask volunteers for their input and show that you value what they have to say. When volunteering is enjoyable, people are more likely to contribute to a cause or organization long term than if it’s an activity they dread.
4. Host a Volunteer Party or Appreciation Dinner
Another way you can let employees know you value them is to plan an event that allows all your volunteers to get together and have fun. You might plan an ice cream bash complete with several flavor possibilities and dozens of toppings.
Alternatively, come up with an exciting theme and invite attendees to dress accordingly in preparation for a night of free food, relaxation and games.
Speaking of food, consider booking a table at a fancy restaurant and telling all your volunteers that their meals are on you.
A sit-down dinner offers excellent opportunities for people to chat with fellow volunteers they may have only previously seen in passing.
5. Give Them Freebies
There’s a good chance your organization has a surplus of branded items such as pens, T-shirts, mouse pads and cups. As people use them, they naturally spread awareness about your group.
Buy gift bags and create volunteer appreciation packs made up of all those items. If your budget allows for it, add a gift certificate for a massage, manicure or another kind of pampering treatment.
Alternatively, if your organization hosts community events, performances or similar gatherings, give volunteers the chance to attend for free as patrons, not volunteers.
6. Assign Tasks That Complement Their Skills
People often start volunteering because they want to learn new things. Even so, they typically like being asked to do things that fit with the abilities they already have. When putting volunteers through a screening process, make sure to include a portion of the application form or interview that asks about their educational background, hobbies and interests.
By doing so, it’ll be easier to give them duties they love. If you pay attention to possible ways to let volunteers use their skills, they’ll be thriving and taking part in meaningful activities. Also, mention that you’re open to feedback.
When employees feel they can come to you and honestly say when certain jobs within your nonprofit aren’t good fits, they won’t be miserable, and you can figure out other ways to use their abilities in the organization for mutual gains.
By applying these tips, you’ll see it’s easier than you might have imagined to shower your volunteers with gratitude.
Money isn’t the only way indicator of thankfulness, and some of these suggestions and the memories they create last much longer than cash.
Kayla Matthews writes about AI, the cloud and retail technology. You can also find her work on The Week, WIRED, Digital Trends, MarketingDive and Contently, or check out her personal tech blog.