Six Tips for Volunteer and Administrative Professional Appreciation

March 24, 2011

To help you make the most of the upcoming recognition opportunities—National Volunteer Week and Administrative Professionals' Day—and do a great job, we're sharing six tips and examples of great celebrations. 


Tip #1: Show the big picture
When I was in college, I volunteered at a local elementary school as part of their reading buddy program. Every week, I went to the school for an hour to help young students practice reading. At the end of the semester, the program director hosted a volunteer appreciation event. The theme was “You make a world of difference” and the gym was decorated in blues and greens. It was a fun event, but the most meaningful element was when students read poems or small stories in front of the entire audience. It showed volunteers that their efforts truly made a difference. 


For your volunteer and administrative professional appreciation this year, be sure to look at the big picture contributions of these people. Celebrate their efforts with the entire organization. You can do this publicly at an event by saying a few words. Share specific stories of when an admin really came through to save the day or the impact a volunteer has had on the life of a child. Be sure to replicate these stories in your company newsletter, on your intranet, blog, and social media. Don’t be afraid to shout to the world how much you appreciate your volunteers and administrative professionals! 


Tip #2: Make them feel special
Your administrative professionals and volunteers are often the least recognized individuals in your organization. During their week of appreciation, make them feel like rock stars! A great way to make volunteers and administrative professionals feel appreciated is by throwing an event in their honor. 


One of our customers, Janet, annually hosts sensational events for her volunteers. One year she centered her entire event on the Essential Piece recognition theme. She used the colors from the theme artwork and created additional decorations, like puzzle piece placements and puzzle piece cookie bouquets. The entire room was decorated in red, orange, yellow, and purple. At each place setting, volunteers received a memo clip and note cube as a gift. Janet was very thoughtful about her gifts as she wanted to make sure her volunteers would be able to use them at home. You can read more about Janet’s event and see pictures on the blog post: "Volunteer Appreciation Uses Essential Piece Theme for Special Event Success." 


If you’re planning an appreciation event for your volunteers and administrative professionals, we can help you keep track of all the deatils! Simply download the Employee Event Checklist from our Recognition Resource Center


Tip #3: Time is the greatest gift
It’s no surprise that your volunteers and administrative professionals are some of the busiest people in your organization. When you make time for them, you let them know that you value their time. Host an event, take them out to lunch, or bring lunch into the office. Encourage the leaders from your organization to attend, and make a point to talk to as many of your honored guests as possible. Give them a personal, face-to-face thank you for all that they do! 


Tip #4: Overcome boundaries of space and time

It can be especially difficult to get all your volunteers together for an appreciation event. Each year, we work with the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to help recognize their volunteers for National Volunteer Week. The theatre has more than 600 individual volunteers who travel throughout the Grand Rapids area to help productions go off without a hitch. I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty in coordinating that many schedules! 


In order to say thanks to all of the volunteers, Mary Jo, the volunteer coordinator, sends a greeting card with a personalized message and a small gift through the mail to each volunteer. In the past, she’s sent Character Pins, journals, and key chains. This is a highly effective appreciation strategy for three reasons:

  1. Volunteers receive mail, which is always fun!
  2. Volunteers receive a gift that serves as a reminder of the theatre’s appreciation.
  3. Volunteers receive a personal note from the theatre, which drives home the message of appreciation.


Tip #5: Make it memorable
Several of the recognition examples I’ve shared with you today have qualities that make them memorable. First, they use a recognition theme. The Reading Buddies program was centered around volunteers making a world of difference, and four years later I still remember it. Using a theme coordinates all of your messaging, making it more effective. When your messages are repeated, it’s more likely your audience will remember it. This is one of the reasons we stress themes so much to our customers. A theme not only makes your work easier, but it also sets your program up for success.


You can browse more than 100 recognition themes on our site to find the right one for your appreciation events this year.  


Second, if you want to make your appreciation memorable, give your recipients a gift. It doesn’t have to be large (we have many gifts under $5), but it does need to be personal. Choose an item that they can use at home, work, or something you know they’ll enjoy. We have special resources on our website to help you find both administrative professional gifts and volunteer gifts this year. 


Tip #6: Present an award
My final tip for celebrating volunteers and administrative professionals is to present an award during their appreciation week. For example, the Illinois 4-H each spring presents a lifetime volunteer award and a volunteer of the year award. The lifetime award is for individuals who have volunteered for 10 or more years. Awards are a great way to honor outstanding volunteers or administrative professionals. You can easily create an award by creating the criteria for the award, designing a nomination form, and determining your selection team. Present the award at an event to get more miles out of your motivation  


Don’t worry, awards don’t have to be expensive. A local charity in Grand Rapids that works with women holds a volunteer appreciation event every year to honor their volunteers. Last year, they presented each volunteer with an award certificate. This year, they’re using Character Pins. I like using Character Pins as awards because they’re affordable, come with a great award verse, and the lapel pin serves as a lasting reminder of the award. Plus, you can easily create a nicer presentation by displaying it in a certificate folder. If you’re presenting awards for your volunteer or admin appreciation, be sure to download our award presentation guide. It will help you plan your speech to present the award and ensures you don’t miss any important elements. 

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