We often get asked in our group, “How do you thank your volunteers?”
We got some great responses to this question (asked by Courtney Coats Guadagno and posted below) and we listed the answers below.
How do you thank your volunteers?
We have a long history of publishing thank you lists for certain ministries in our print newsletter. These are primarily for our children’s ministry (Vacation Bible School is the major one) and missions (for a specific Christmas mission each year), and are just a long list of names of people who volunteer. I have multiple issues with this practice, which I will not get into here.
If we truly want to express our gratitude, I think it would be much, much more personal and meaningful to send written or even emailed thank you notes to each volunteer instead. But before bringing this suggestion to our ministry leaders, I wanted to see if I’m off-base with this frustration/solution, and get some ideas from what others do. Thanks!
We send out handwritten thank you notes on a regular basis to our volunteers. We’re not a huge church, but we have about 200 volunteers, so to keep it manageable, each team leader sends notes to his or her volunteers. Even after leaving a team for about four year, I still get awesome feedback about the notes. It communicates a lot!
I don’t manage volunteers, but I volunteer a ton. The very best thing I can be given is encouragement in the form of reassurance . I don’t care for gifts or even “handwritten” cards. Sure they are nice monetarily, but getting comments that specifically tell me that what I am doing is making an impact or helping in some way is HUGE. I purposefully surround myself with people who lift me up, and because they do, I continue to volunteer.
I’m a volunteer and one of my favorite things that our church does is hold a night of worship only for volunteers. We have church-wide nights of worship, which requires volunteers, so the volunteer-only nights are nice (and staff run the event). About once a year I get a thank you and/or small Chick-Fil-A gift card. I know certain ministries will hold a special dinner for just the volunteers within their area. It’s catered, decorated tables to some degree, and staff act as waiters.
I like handwritten notes. I run several events at church and try to send notes each time. I don’t like published lists like that. One reason -because if u forget someone feelings get hurt. That stresses me out. Other reasons too, prob similar to your thoughts. I also have our mission team sign a group Christmas card to those who serve in our larger missions.
What’s been most meaningful to me is not so much a generic note of “thanks,” as a note of “here’s how you made an impact.” Acknowledging specific situations or circumstances where a volunteer uniquely made a difference is priceless. I’ve kept notes like that for years.
Before you bring it up to ministry leaders, talk to the senior pastor. This then, if he/she agrees with you it becomes his/her decision and the leaders are informed by him that this new practice needs to be put into place.
I write both handwritten and email notes. We also publish thank you’s in a giving reports – here it serves a purpose of thanking people, letting those who might not know about a particular ministry how many people it takes to get things done and also that their investment of time is meaningful stewardship. I have also had folks volunteer because they see the opportunity and also can ask people who were thanked about the activity.
We write personal handwritten notes to our volunteers twice a year. We also send out birthday emails. An intangible thank you is that we schedule people and take attendance each week. When we took over this ministry, there was not formal scheduling and no attendance being taken. In my experience, people like to know that their service matters. If you weren’t scheduled to be there or if no one noticed that you didn’t show up, it could seem as if your service didn’t matter. We call folks who don’t make their scheduled shift to check on them (not scold them). We also have an in-person check-in system on Sunday mornings. It gives us time to spend – if even just a couple of minutes – with each volunteer. We do our best to try to incorporate all five love languages in our interactions with all of our volunteers. A thank you card doesn’t mean much to one, but hangs on the fridge for another. A “you’re spectacular at what you do” word of encouragement flies over one person’s head, while it’s the only affirming thing another person may have heard all week.
We publish a general thank you/impact report the week after each major volunteer week/end of school year/season in our church bulletin and on social (no names though). Then the individual ministries do personalized thank you’s for their volunteers. This has ranged from thank you notes, breakfasts, gifts, really whatever they think fits for their volunteer base.
Thank you cards & text through the week. Keeping a stash of $5 gift cards to Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, dessert shops, etc is great for those times you want to give a bit more.
We throw a party for volunteers at year end and give them a swag bag, but there is also lots of encouragement, and praise throughout the year to people individually.