Those Two Little Words

We ‘professional’ service types–volunteer coordinators, non-profit staff, church staff, and the like–have a common weakness.

We have lots and lots of them, but here is one.

We often do not thank our teams enough, especially in the ways we should. (Volunteers everywhere are saying, “Yeah, no s–, um, …. duh.”)

The words, ‘Thank you,’ may often pass our lips, with great sincerity.  But people feel thanked in lots of different ways, and even if your ‘love language’ is words of affirmation, the way we say it may not really connect.

Because our job is to make an organization run without the resources of a paid staff, we often get very focused on the work and can overlook the workers.  At best, this makes the journey together less fun and rich.  At worst, it can leave you, dear volunteer, feeling used and burnt out.

But you are awesome.  We may work long hours for this cause.  But you work the long hours of your job, and then you show up to help us.  You take care of your family and then you show up to take care of people who need family.  Or to make our church truly a family.  Or to create the environment that will bring another family a bit closer together.

At the end of each semester, we ask our student staff to take a little money and show appreciation for the people who volunteered with them over the past four months.  Here are four things they did with their $100 budget.  (They each had a different number of people to thank, from about 10-50.)

  • Handwritten Thank You notes.  When so much happens on a screen, getting something written by hand on paper feels a little special.  Sometimes they’d stick a little treat on them, like a baby Snickers.
  • Gift Cards.  These were usually $5, and they wrote a note in the card sleeve.  This gift is a two-fer…the volunteer is happy to get it, and remembers you again when they go to use it.
  • Mini-party.  They bought good food and hosted a super low-key, drop in party.  Students got a study break, and coordinators got to say thank you in person along with the gesture.
  • Treating the Team.  On one of their final regular service days, the coordinator took the group to coffee or In-n-Out and just said, “my treat.”

It’s not rocket science, but it is an intentional effort to show appreciation for the people who serve and don’t get paid for it.

Once, to thank our children’s ministry team, we re-wrote the lyrics to Surfin’ USA and choreographed a dance.  It was cheesy.  Oh so cheesy.

But you can’t deny it shows effort.

If you are a volunteer, please know we are grateful for you.  We are keenly aware that you make this cause go and we’d be up a creek with no paddle without you.

When have you felt most appreciated for your service?  What types of things really make you feel sincerely thanked for your work?

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