The Key to Happy Volunteers

“If you build it, they will come…” (but don’t forget to hug them on the way out).

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Your volunteers have arrived. They’re painting faces, pouring drinks, mediating races and checking ID’s–they’re planting flowers, setting up chairs and kissing babies. By the end of the day, the crowds have thinned, the last crew is heading home, and you, event coordinator, are standing in the glorious wreckage of a job well-done. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back, because you built it–and they came.

But you’re not done yet. There’s one last element to keeping those volunteers happy (and coming back), and it’s the simplest step of all: saying thanks.

Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation

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It matters. If you can retain your existing volunteers, that means less recruitment in the future, and a more knowledgeable volunteer force working for your organization. Volunteer appreciation can be as simple as a t-shirt they get to take home, and as grandiose as a volunteer member reception at a fancy venue. Buy them dinner or send them a thank-you card, recognize them by first and last name in a pamphlet or on stage, find time to thank them in person for their efforts and their passion. Just a handshake and a smile can go a long way.

Remember that volunteers are people, too–and if you go that extra mile to foster a relationship between your organization and your volunteers, it certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting that person to come back. Plus, you need to maintain that stellar reputation you’ve worked so hard to cultivate in your community. So why not send your volunteers home with a warm fuzzy feeling? Give them every reason to tell others how great you are.

Kaylee Williams is the President of VolunteerLocal, a volunteer scheduling, management and communication platform for organizations of all types and sizes. Williams is passionate about community service and inclusion (diversity) in tech. She is a triathlete, volunteer coach for Girls on the Run, bass guitar player and homebrewer.

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