Everyone knows we need to thank volunteers. No doubt about it; saying thank you is important. But it’s equally important to affirm our volunteers.

Affirming volunteers is simply letting them know that their work matters. Giving our time costs us something. We need to know that our effort—at this time, in this place—makes a difference to someone; that it accomplishes something positive.

How can you let volunteers know that their work matters?

  • Sharing results: the numbers
    How many children were touched through Sunday school; how many moms participated in Mom’s Day Out? How many plants planted; backpacks handed out; meals served?
  • Sharing results: the intangibles
    Tell them about lives that were touched. When a Mom tells you how a Sunday school lesson was repeated at home; when someone mentions they made a new friend at the picnic; when someone receiving a free meal expresses appreciation . . . Share this with all the volunteers in that ministry.
  • The big picture
    It’s so easy to get bogged down in details. We all need reminders that Sunday school is not babysitting, but connecting kids to Jesus; that the picnic is more than just a good time, it’s people getting connected; that serving a meal is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35 ESV).
  • Go to a wider audience
    When there’s a Sunday school promo video on the church website; when the ministry to the homeless is mentioned in a sermon; when there are photos and stories from the picnic in the monthly newsletter; the volunteer is affirmed.

And, of course, thanking volunteers says you noticed, their work has value to you, and the ministry is grateful.

A few additional thoughts on saying thank you:

  • Be sincere. Don’t give the impression that saying thank you is something on your to-do list.
  • Be specific. “Thank you for helping with clean up . . . staying with Jimmy until he calmed down . . . for filling in for Joe last week.”
  • Receiving a handwritten card in the mail with a couple sentences appreciation is perhaps the most universally appreciated way to thank volunteers.
  • People often like a simple, even silly, little gift with a thank you message, such as a roll of Life Savers candy with a note: “You are a life saver.”
  • If you like being efficient, combine a thank you with getting work done. Have your next team meeting at a coffee shop and pay for the beverages.
  • Bigger thank you events, like a volunteer appreciation lunch, can fun. But a couple of cautions . . . Some people love public recognition; others hate it. Statistics show that although 60% of the organizations surveyed hold formal gatherings to thank volunteers, only 20% of volunteers like to be thanked in this way.


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