This week's post is brought to you by another amazing friend of mine, Amy Fenton. This woman loves volunteers to an extent I've rarely seen before. And one of her favorite things to do with volunteers is celebrate them. So, since today is Valentine's Day, I thought Amy would be the perfect person to tell you how to show your volunteers a little love.
Oh, and you might recognize some similar themes to Jen Guynn's post last week on connecting with volunteers. Believe me, if they're both talking about it, you need to pay attention! These incredible women are subject matter experts on volunteers, and when they speak, you should be taking notes. I know I am!
"People need to be needed more than you need help." – Jim Wideman
My mom recently retired. So far she loves it, but a few days ago she texted me to tell me she had applied for a new job. What?! I texted back and asked her to explain. She quickly told me that she had applied to volunteer at the hospital. As much as she loves her retirement, she needs to be needed. And the hospital needs her!
I love volunteers.
I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I've always relied heavily on volunteers to make things happen. Along the way, I have also learned a few things. Yes, people need to be needed. But, the warm and fuzzy feelings that first draw them to you will not always keep them around. As volunteers serve with you, or for you, they will eventually need more. And I’ve found that it is so important to continue to show them the love.
So, here's a list of the top five ways you can continue to love on your volunteers.
1. Inspire them!
Continue to share the vision. Make them an insider who is privy to the future plans of the company, where you are headed, and how they've helped you get to where you are. Show them how key they are to the future. Help them see how important they are. Let’s be honest—nonprofits would cease to exist if it were not for volunteers.
2. Celebrate them privately.
- Thank them every time they show up. That seems so simple, but so often we take volunteers for granted. My church has a new pastor, and he has made it his mission to go around and thank every volunteer every Sunday! That’s new to our volunteers, and it has gone a long way to keep them motivated to show up.
- Feed them. Who doesn’t like a surprise box of donuts from time to time? Bring them a snack, Starbucks drink, homemade cookies, or any little treat. This past Sunday I delivered heart-shaped Krispy Kreme donuts to our volunteers, and they loved it!
- Write a note when you “catch” a volunteer going the extra mile. What is praised is repeated. Make a big deal about the little things.
- Host a yearly volunteer event. Prioritize time and money to host a dinner, breakfast, or some type of celebration event that brings all your volunteers together. Gather data on their collective efforts to again paint the big picture of the impact they are making. When I shared with our volunteer team that they had spent over 10,000 hours serving over 2,000 kids and families in 2017 there were cheers all around! Inspiration is motivation to keep moving forward in their volunteer roles.
3. Celebrate them publicly.
- Give your volunteers a shoutout on social media. Share pictures of them serving and shower them with praise!
- Give a weekly award. In the kids ministry at my church, a key leader decided one Sunday morning to begin giving a weekly award to someone who had gone the extra mile. The only problem . . . he made and implemented that plan immediately—right then and there. He quickly realized he hadn’t prepared for this, and therefore didn’t have an actual award. So, he quickly grabbed a red coffee stirrer and gave the first of many “Game Straw Awards.” Funny enough, the “Game Straw” has become a very coveted award each Sunday. We know it’s not really the straw. It is the praise that comes with it each week. It motivates people to look for ways to go over and above.
- Make your volunteers stand out as a collective group. Give them a t-shirt, bracelets, or something else that belongs only to them. These items make them stand out from the crowd. In my church setting, we ask our volunteers to wear their ministry t-shirt. On occasion, we take the time to ask them to stand so that the bigger crowd can give them a huge standing ovation. When that happens, the volunteers feel super important and proud to serve!
4. Communicate with them.
Make sure you're always keeping them in the know. This can be an email, a closed Facebook group, or some other form of communication. But make sure to keep your volunteers informed on a consistent basis.
5. Do for a few.
Sometimes you can do for a few what you can’t do for every volunteer collectively. Know your volunteers. Know what is going on in their lives. If you have a volunteer in need, go the extra mile for them. You may have someone with mounting medical bills, a single mom that needs help with Christmas, a volunteer who is sick or lost a loved one. Show them extravagant love and support when you’re able.
I love volunteers—and any reason to have a party. I hope you do, too, because those two things make a great combo in leading and loving on people! Our volunteers deserve all the love, praise, and celebrating we can throw their way.
Now go wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Catch up on last week's post:
Amy Fenton works with Orange, a company based in Atlanta providing coaching, support, and resources for churches and nonprofits. She wears several hats as an Orange Specialist, Executive Director of Orange VBS, and Orange’s Live to Serve Conference for volunteers.
Amy has been in kid's ministry for more than 20 years. She served as the kid's pastor for over nine years at two, different churches. And at each, she led teams of staff and over 400 volunteers.
She has a passion for helping and empowering those who are leading kids ministries around the country, and a love for the volunteers who serve in churches.
Amy's greatest joy in life comes from her three kids, Jadyn, Pierce, and Blaze, as well as the crazy, fun life they live in Franklin, TN.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.