6 Easy Ways to Appreciate Your Volunteers (for Free!)
This is part 2 to last week's post, 8 Easy Ways to Appreciate Your Volunteers. I know that some of us may not always have a budget for appreciating our volunteers, but it doesn't change the fact that we still need them. Here are 6 ways I appreciate my team that won't break the budget. 1. Handwritten thank-you notes
Do this! Go down to the dollar store and pick up a few 8 packs of thank-you cards. Keep them on hand in your office at all times. When you notice someone going above and beyond the call of duty, write them a quick note. It doesn't have to be a novel; all you need is a few sentences telling them that you noticed their hard work and you appreciate them. It's amazing how encouraging it is to receive a nice handwritten note in today's electronic age. I received a sweet letter from one of my volunteers in the mail once, and it was such an encouragement to me. If you don't have boxed thank-you notes, make them yourself. No excuses here.
2. Volunteer of the week on Facebook
I started doing this about a month ago. Every week, I get a picture of a different volunteer in Gen Kids (K-5th grade) and Gen Kids Jr. (ages 0-5) "doing their thing" with the kids. During the week, I post statuses from our Gen Kids Facebook page bragging on how awesome they are. I also share the post from my personal Facebook account, and make a more specific post about how much I appreciate what they do. So far, I have gotten a lot of great feedback especially from my adult leaders and parents. I love this idea because it not only appreciates your volunteers, but also puts them in the spotlight for parents and other people in the church to see individual ministry that often goes overlooked.
3. You deserve a break gift
This is a cute printable I pinned on my Pinterest board: Leader Appreciation. I used this a while back with my volunteers. I printed them out on cardstock, cut them out, and hot-glued them to KitKat bars. I gave them to my volunteers after a work-heavy season, and told them they could use them for one week off of their normal schedule whenever they wanted. I only asked that they let me know at least a week in advance so I could find their replacement. If you don't have it in your budget to buy the KitKat bars, just put this printable inside a thank-you card. I'm positive your volunteers will love it!
4. Give them opportunities to use their gifts
At first, you may be thinking this doesn't seem like a way to appreciate volunteers, but think about it. Do you put your volunteers where there are vacancies, or where they want to serve? When we recruit just to fill our openings, we set up our volunteers for burning out. The next time someone expresses interest in serving in your kids' ministry, ask them what they are interested in doing. Maybe they enjoy being on the stage, or maybe they prefer AVL (audio, video, lighting). For example, a volunteer could be more inclined to serve with preschoolers even though you have a bigger need in the nursery. Allow people to use their gifts, and serve where they feel most comfortable. If they don't know what they prefer, let them try out several different areas and positions, and let them choose the area they enjoyed the most. It may seem easier for us as leaders to put people where we have the biggest need, but in the long run, our volunteers will be happier and more committed if we allow them to use their gifts where they are comfortable.
5. Include them in decisions.
Let's face it, often times it's easier to come up with all the ideas ourselves and tell our volunteers, "this is what we're doing!" This often comes across as a command and rarely sits nicely with volunteers (or anyone for that matter). In contrast, we want our team to feel like we care about their input. In order for them to buy into our ideas, we need to make sure they feel included in the decision-making process. Above, you will see two different team competitions we have done with our kids. I usually open up the floor to my team to brainstorm ideas for our team competitions, and sometimes one of my volunteers comes up with a great idea. Other times, I come up with a couple ideas and they vote for the one they like the best. I enjoy hearing their ideas and feedback, and they appreciate that I care about their input enough to ask. It's a win-win for everyone.
6. Volunteer of the month
Every month we produce a newsletter that we give to all our parents and volunteers. In the last few months, we added a "Leader Spotlight" section in each of our newsletters featuring the Gen Kids and Gen Kids Jr. Leader of the Month. We take a nice picture of them, and ask them five questions in an mini-interview. This allows our parents and volunteers to get to know our team better, and showcases their ministry gifts for the month.
What are you doing to love and appreciate your volunteers that you can't buy at the store?