After the Event: 5 Ways to Thank Volunteers Effectively

Want to retain event volunteers for the long term? Use these strategies to show appreciation and encourage volunteers to stay engaged with your nonprofit.

Volunteers provide significant support to the charitable organizations and associations they work with. The impact of their support is undeniable: 

As you can see, volunteers quite literally keep the nonprofit sector in motion. The same is true for your organization’s events—volunteers help manage everything from set up and check-ins to event breakdown and post-event follow-up. 

To retain their support for the long term, your organization needs a clear appreciation strategy to show your gratitude to your loyal supporters. Let’s explore five tips for thanking volunteers effectively after events.

1. Offer something unexpected.

Go above and beyond the typical thank you letter by planning unique appreciation efforts. Surprising volunteers with an unexpected, personalized gesture will make your organization more memorable and can inspire them to get involved in your next event.

Delight volunteers with appreciation gestures such as: 

  • Gifts. This could include gift cards, free branded merchandise, or a gift related to your mission. For example, if your nonprofit hosted an environmental awareness gala, you could give volunteers a potted plant to show gratitude. 
  • A phone call. Most volunteers will expect to see a thank-you email, but a phone call provides an opportunity to connect with volunteers. 
  • An appreciation video. Create a video of your staff thanking event volunteers for their tireless support during your event. Send the video directly to volunteers via email to increase the chances that everyone will see your message. 
  • A note from a beneficiary. Hearing directly from the people who benefited from your event can be incredibly powerful for showing appreciation to volunteers and boosting retention. Ask if beneficiaries would be willing to write a few thank you notes to share what volunteer support means to them. 

Use data from your volunteer management platform to personalize these appreciation moments. For example, create personalized videos that thank volunteers by name or for a specific way they exceeded expectations at your event. This helps your appreciation efforts stand out even more and ensures volunteers feel valued as individuals. 

2. Show volunteers the impact of their support.

Research shows that a key reason for donor lapse is when donors don’t receive information about how the organization used their gifts. Similarly, you could lose volunteer support over time if you don’t provide updates on how volunteer work positively impacts your organization. 

Following up with volunteers to demonstrate their impact provides a greater sense of fulfillment. When volunteers see the difference they made in helping your event succeed, they’ll feel much more motivated to stay involved with your organization. 

Highlight volunteers’ impact by sharing: 

  • Before and after photos. Let’s say you hosted a volunteer event to clean up a local park that suffered hurricane damage. Take photos before and after the event to showcase volunteers’ tireless efforts to make the park back a safe community space. 
  • Data about what volunteers accomplished. Share a chart or graph depicting volunteers’ contributions using hard data. For example, perhaps you planned an auction event to raise money for your association. Create a chart showing how many more event participants you were able to recruit with volunteers’ help compared to the number of participants you had in a previous year when volunteers weren’t involved. 
  • A map showing the scope of volunteer work. If your event had a geographic component, create a map showing all the areas where volunteers were able to make a positive contribution. A map is especially useful if your event is virtual. You can depict how many people tuned in worldwide or how many volunteers you had from various cities or countries. 

Telling volunteers that you appreciate their hard work and that they made a significant impact will only get you so far. Showing volunteers exactly what their support means to you will make a more powerful impression and inspire them to continue volunteering. 

Bonus tip: If your organization uses membership software to keep track of volunteer work, invite volunteers to join and create a profile in your network. According to Bloomerang’s membership software guide, you can use these tools to make event registration simple and convenient. Once they create their profiles, volunteers can easily view their volunteer hours and cumulative impact over time. 

3. Ask for volunteer feedback.

Requesting feedback from volunteers can help you improve the event experience before your next one. It also shows volunteers that you’re willing to listen to their input and adjust your strategies to appeal to their interests. 

Create a volunteer survey with questions like: 

  • What inspired you to volunteer at our event? 
  • Was there sufficient communication before the event?
  • Did you feel comfortable with the amount of training you received before the event?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite parts of volunteering at the event?
  • Was it easy to get in touch with a staff member during the event if you had questions?
  • Would you volunteer at one of our events again? 

Once you’ve received responses from volunteers, identify common trends in their feedback and make a plan to incorporate their suggestions. For example, if many volunteers expressed that your event web page didn’t have enough logistical information, you could update the page ahead of future events to add crucial details like the event’s date, time, location, and parking information. 

4. Invite volunteers to a special gratitude event.

A special event can be an effective opportunity to gather all volunteers in one place to express your gratitude for their involvement. Consider hosting events such as: 

  • A social event, like trivia or bowling (over 35% of volunteers say one of the main reasons they get involved is to socialize, making this an especially effective gratitude strategy). 
  • A networking event where volunteers can get to know each other and make both personal and professional connections. 
  • A casual brunch or coffee hour with opportunities to speak with your staff and leaders. 

Depending on volunteer preferences or volunteers’ geographic locations, you could hold events virtually or in person. Make these events more engaging with tasty food and drinks, trivia, live entertainment, or a raffle

5. Spotlight volunteers using multiple platforms.

Public recognition of volunteers is just as important as privately thanking them for their hard work. It shows current and potential new volunteers how committed you are to showing appreciation for your supporters. 

Broadcast your gratitude for event volunteers using the following platforms: 

  • Your organization’s blog. Write a blog post recapping the ways that volunteers supported your event. Include an image gallery or slideshow from the event showing volunteers engaging in different activities. 
  • Social media. Tag volunteers in posts with photos so they can see themselves and share your posts with their family and friends. 
  • Email newsletters. Send an email blast to all supporters to thank volunteers for their support and share statistics that spotlight volunteer accomplishments. 
  • Volunteer recognition wall. Create a virtual or in-person volunteer recognition wall that lists all volunteers’ names. The virtual wall can be a page on your website, and the in-person wall can be a physical structure at your organization’s headquarters. 

By widely sharing your gratitude for volunteers, you demonstrate the importance of these supporters to your event’s success. You can also catch the attention of potential new volunteers who may see the impact they can have on your worthy cause and want to get involved. 

With these appreciation strategies, your organization can more easily retain volunteers and recruit new supporters who want to become a part of your welcoming community. Keep your gratitude efforts focused on volunteers’ interests and preferences, and you’ll be well on your way toward creating an appreciation approach that fosters long-term relationships. 

Guest Author: Jay Love, Bloomerang