Captioning–Press (Special Page)

"Our BoardAssist candidates have been amazing additions to our Board of Directors."

Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
Credit: Volunteers of America
helping individuals and families in need

Celebrate the do-gooders who make your work possible

“Volunteers are the backbone of the social good sector yet their contributions aren’t always adequately recognized.” That’s what guest blogger Hayley Samuelson of Catchafire reminds us in this week’s post, perfectly timed given Thanksgiving this week.  


Celebrate the do-gooders who make your work possible

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, don’t forget to share some gratitude with everyone who helped you make an impact this year! At Catchafire, we know that celebrating volunteers in the right way leads to a long term relationship which can result in invaluable advice, connections to new supporters, and even increase donations.


Here are few ways to recognize your volunteers so the relationship continues well beyond the project.


  • Focus on the long term from the get go. Think of every project as the opportunity to build a strong relationship with a new friend. Actively check in with your volunteer throughout the course of project to make sure everything is meeting their expectations and that they are having an amazing experience. If you view your skills-based volunteer as a friend or colleague who is taking time out of their busy schedule to help you grow, it will be easier to create a relationship that last. Remember when your mom taught you to treat others as you’d like to be treated? That applies here. Don’t stop at stellar communication and meeting their deadlines, get to know them so that you can compliment them and provide them with motivation throughout the project.


  • Figure out what motivates your volunteer to give. Skills-based volunteers decide to work on skill-based volunteer projects to grow their portfolio, gain leadership experience or explore their passions while making a difference. If you determine what motivates their giving, you can easily find a thank you gift to match. If your volunteer gives to develop professionally, offer to write them a LinkedIn recommendation or Catchafire testimonial at the end of the project or provide a giftcard to Skillshare to continue their learning. If they are in search of a new career and their work exceeds your expectations, serve as a reference or offer to connect them with people who can help. If the cause is something they are particularly passionate about, host an event that brings in the people or community you support. There is little better than seeing impact first hand.


  • Skills-based volunteers are looking for more than a handwritten note. Don’t get me wrong, a handwritten note goes a long way but to skills-based volunteers, these projects are personal. They are sharing the talents they’ve been cultivating for years with a cause they are passionate about. They view these projects as an opportunity to develop. If something worked extremely well (or something didn’t), let them know. Send them an update of the impact they’ve created after the project has reached an end (or better yet, send ongoing updates). Skills-based volunteers want to know where they’ve taken your organization, so make it a habit to touch base past the project. This not only strengthens the relationship well beyond the project but, if they are up for it, is another way to check in when you have a questions or need help.


  • Make it public. Many of the volunteers in our community are humble but that doesn’t mean it they don’t like being highlighted for their achievements. If someone goes above and beyond, write a glowing testimonial, feature them in a blog or one of your annual report stories. If they are local, consider hosting a celebration where you recognize all of your volunteers in one place, this is an opportunity for everyone to connect offline and celebrate in their shared impact. It is fun and engaging.


  • And if they are virtual… The above still applies but think of creative ways to make a more personal connection. Perhaps you can record a video with the team saying thank you and explaining the impact they’ve made.


Hayley Samuelson got her start in the story biz writing and producing for an online magazine in Boulder, Colorado that covered anything from the life of a Belgian rockstar to elementary schools serving pink slime. She considers herself lucky because at Catchafire, it is her job to help tell stories about generosity, changemakers and do-gooders. She has the best time when she’s a few feet clear of her comfort zone and she won’t deny a fondness for everything that is Lady Gaga.  Catchafire is a community of individuals striving to push the social good sector forward by focusing on efficient and effective ways to give back. One way they do this is by connecting professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability.