Taking Action Beyond National Volunteer Week

Image for post
Image for post

National Volunteer Week concluded just days ago. All the hashtags and photos of volunteers in action have disappeared, social media campaigns have come to an end, and the week dedicated to recognizing and thanking volunteers is a wrap. Might I be so bold and say it can’t stop there. For all the organizations that engage volunteers, more ought to be done to show appreciation beyond posting photos and saying thanks.

Over the years I’ve come to realize one of the most effective ways to communicate appreciation is through the deliberate act of investing in the person or group of people you’re acknowledging. This is much different than investing money into property or stock options, hoping that your money will double through appreciation. Rather, this is the investment of time, training, development through mentoring and purchasing of resources for the volunteers, to make sure they’re properly equipped to carry out their duties. This also helps nurture them personally and professionally, demonstrating that they’re worth the extra effort. These acts will transcend the work they’ll do to support the organization, having a lasting impact on their lives for years to come.

When I think about gestures that make me feel appreciated, I think back to times where I was sent to training, to conferences, given more responsibility, authority, or little things like being given a name tag. All of these actions demonstrate trust, confidence in my ability, my judgement, and indirectly communicates that I’m a part of the team without actually saying it. If you’re thinking about actions you might take beyond sending a card, letter or posting a photo or hashtag, then you’re in luck. Here are some simple but genuine ways to demonstrate your care and appreciation for the volunteers serving your organization.

  • Give your time and attention: Yep, I said it. You need to give your undivided time and attention to those who are supporting the organization through volunteerism. This includes being responsive to their emails and phone calls, while handling them with care. When engaging volunteers, get to know them. While this won’t be possible in all instances, where there’s time, take the opportunity to hear their volunteer journey and their hobbies. This can also mean listening to their feedback and grievances. Giving volunteers your time will demonstrate your sincere care about their well being as much as your care about them satisfying the organization’s mission. When listening to gripes or constructive criticism, not only will this help the obvious in fixing deficiencies in your program, but will also ensure that they feel like they’re being heard

Some organizations already do this, but unfortunately most don’t. People assume that volunteers are expendable resources that’ll bend over backwards or become martyrs for “the cause.” In reality, just like paid employees, if you don’t show your appreciation through actions, they’ll go to the next organization that will. With more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States, there’s no shortage of outlets that need the support. As customers of volunteer opportunities, volunteers can be impacted negatively by their experience, and this can be a result of lack of actions that communicate appreciation beyond lip service. While posting photos, words of appreciation and hashtags on social media are great, I encourage you to not stop there. While there’s risk management to consider by taking some actions I suggest, I would encourage you to explore these steps and see how it pans out. Some of these don’t require a hefty budget, just kind gestures. I guarantee though, this will pay dividends later through increased retention. Even though National Volunteer Week is over, let’s not think about this as the conclusion until next year, let’s view this as an opportunity to enact change. Make a commitment to yourself, your organization and your volunteers to take action. Share your thoughts or some of the action you’ve taken since, I’d love to hear about changes you’ve made, and the impact.

Note: The thoughts and views expressed in this post reflect my personal views alone and are not those of Marriott International or any of its brands.

About the author: Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Volunteerism for Marriott International. Prior to that Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome is a board of directors member of Peace Through Action USA and also serves on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the US Navy.

(Originally posted on www.jerometennille.com)

Written by

Social Good advocate for CSR, Volunteer Engagement, and Sustainability. Veteran. Manager of Volunteerism at Marriott International. Visit www.jerometennille.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store