15 FRESH Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Part of Multisite Monday

My new book, Don’t Quit, releases on September 8th. Coauthored with Gina McClain, it is written in such a way to offer insight on a variety of ministry topics, as well as inspire leaders to never raise the white flag of surrender. In our original pitch to the publisher, we shared our passion and commitment to see ministry leaders equipped, empowered, and strengthened to run the marathon race that is ministry. In several chapters we directly address volunteer systems and strategies. Volunteers are the lifeblood of ministry. The stronger your teams, the greater the impact.

If you plan to be in ministry for any length of time, you need support. While healthy familial relationships are important, that’s not what I’m referring to. You need passionate, dedicated individuals who are committed to seeing God move in and through your ministry.  In one of the chapters I share a formula to help volunteers last longer:

Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity.

Today I want to focus on the appreciation variable of that equation. Effective appreciation is shown on an individual basis. It celebrates, encourages, and publicly acknowledges excellence. Below you will find 15 volunteer appreciation ideas to help you care for the teams of volunteers and leaders who’ve been placed in your charge.

PRACTICALLY FREE

  • Use Siri to make the most of your drive time. Record voice messages and send to unsuspecting volunteers. Don’t ask anything of them. Check in, say a quick prayer and thank them for what they do. Be as specific as possible with your gratitude.
  • Mark off thirty minutes in your calendar each week to write cards, send emails and make calls. Don’t allow this small amount of time to be eaten up with administrative meetings or unscheduled standing conversations.
  • During your volunteer meeting or rally choose one person to honor each week. Tell his or her story, how he or she connected with the church and how he or she is making a difference in the lives of kids and families. Remember to choose only deserving volunteers to honor. Never point to someone who is lacking drive or commitment and say, “Be like them.”
  • Every other Saturday evening plan to bake a batch of cookies, brownies or muffins. Wrap them up, attach a note and bring to one or two volunteers for no other reason than you were thinking of them.
  • In your weekly curriculum email or volunteer newsletter, choose one volunteer to highlight each week. Tell about his or her family, hobbies, career, and passions. Provide a picture or two so volunteers from other teams can identify him or her and say hello.

ON THE CHEAP

  • Want to draw attention to a select few volunteers. Rent or purchase a small helium tank. Write notes of thanks and place them inside balloons. Use helium to inflate the balloons and tie them onto cars in the parking lot. Not only will it draw the intrigue and attention of attenders, but your volunteers’ last interaction with your ministry for the day will be one of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Create a ‘favorites form’ in which volunteers can share their preferred candy, restaurant, coffee order, color, hobby, etc. Keep these forms on file to use as needed. Not only will you be ready to show appreciation when the time is right, but you’ll also know exactly what to purchase to make a lasting impression. Appreciating your volunteers begins with knowing your volunteers. This is a great step in the right direction.
  • Set up a card-making center where volunteers can write thank-you notes to one another when they want to express gratitude. Provide $5 gift cards, candy, glitter pens and stickers. Ask area leaders to write two cards and team managers to write one card every week. Have these leaders write the first and last name of the person they are appreciating on the front. You can add the mailing address on Monday or Tuesday and drop them off at the post office. The number of appreciation cards you send each week will quadruple with very little added work for you. In addition, your volunteers will treasure the opportunity to highlight the efforts of their peers.
  • Have a variety of gifts purchased, wrapped and waiting to be given out at just the right moment. The best time to show appreciation is as soon as possible. When you notice a volunteer patiently comforting a crying child or scrubbing down a bathroom sink, grab a previously wrapped gift and attach a note. Don’t wait to say, “Thank you!” (Examples include a nice lotion set, a book on leadership, a pair of earrings, a car wash gift certificate, a travel coffee mug, a journal, or a gift card to a local eatery.)
  • Honor your team members by gifting them a special t-shirt on their one or two year volunteer anniversary. Consistency and commitment should be celebrated and publicly recognized.

FEELING GENEROUS

  • Have a particular team that consistently hits a home run? Schedule for their cars to be washed and detailed while they serve. Have them lined up, sparkling and ready to go when they head home.
  • Want to splurge on volunteers who have selflessly signed up to serve during Easter or Christmas experiences? Create a mobile coffee or hot chocolate cart and hire a barista to serve custom made hot drinks between experiences.
  • Have college students serving for the summer and want to thank them for stepping up when rosters are thin and regularly scheduled volunteers are traveling? Order travel mugs from the schools or colleges they will be returning to in the fall and fill them with their favorite candy or snack food. This will show your gratitude and reinforce the behavior for summers to come.
  • Want to welcome new sign-ups and help build community among teams? Book an ice-cream truck for the day and encourage leaders to bring their teams to share an icee and get to know their new teammates.
  • Want to show gratitude and increase relational equity with those special few leaders who go above and beyond to help your ministry make a greater impact? Schedule a cooking class and enjoy a hands on approach to dinner. Have fun, enjoy the process but don’t talk about ministry issues. Relational equity is rooted in friendship.

In a multisite model, volunteer appreciation must be systemized. Let me be clear…it has to be BUDGETED! A multisite model is complex and multilayered. If your church doesn’t set aside money to honor, encourage, and show gratitude for those who invest time and energy into your ministry, those individuals will be neglected. Neglect leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to disengagement and resignation. If you want to keep your ministry healthy, adjust your schedule and budget to accommodate for the care and encouragement of those who help you succeed each and every week.

(Tip: When deciding how much money to set aside in your budget for volunteer appreciation, first decide on the initiatives you want to pursue. Estimate the total cost of those initiatives and then divide that amount on a per capita basis in accordance with the number of volunteers you have at each campus. This will give you a per volunteer amount and allow you to estimate how much a single campus or location will need to adequately care for its volunteer base.)

I hope you find these ideas helpful and I hope you’ll consider purchasing Don’t Quit on September 8th.

For additional multisite articles, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Jessica Bealer has been leading children’s ministry for 17 years. The last five years have been spent overseeing standards, systems, staffing and atmosphere for the children’s ministry of Elevation Church. She has overseen the launch of nearly twenty locations, and is considered a specialist in kidmin multisite. Jessica is a mother of four and published author. She is married to Frank, the CEO of Phase Family Centers and Executive Director of Leadership Development at Orange. Together they are the founders of FamilyMinistry.Church.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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