How Do You Give Good Proof? Let Cabot Help You Thank Your Volunteers

Jan 31, 2019

By Cabot Department of Gratitude

2017 Cabot Community Celebrity Cruise attendees participate in a service project in Alaska.

When you shop you get proof with a receipt. When volunteers help, their proof is your thanks. Just as we’d never leave the store without that little slip of paper, volunteers shouldn’t go for long periods of time without getting the vital proof of how valuable they are to you. Luckily, there are many ways to honor your volunteers and document the impact of volunteer service!

Cabot’s longstanding partnership with Points of Light provides nonprofits with opportunities to show appreciation to their volunteers. Our Department of Gratitude – yes, Cabot has a whole department dedicated to showing gratitude – features programs that any nonprofit organization can take advantage of:

Our work with Points of Light helps you make sure your volunteers hear those vital thanks, serving as proof that their work matters.

Multiply Impact with a Thank You

“Thank you” reinforces to your volunteers that their work matters. Thanking volunteers also multiplies the impact of the initial volunteer work through “social proofing” – when one person is moved to action by seeing the good work of another. Seeing our friends volunteering and having fun makes us want to volunteer, too.

Programs within Cabot’s Department of Gratitude and other volunteer appreciation efforts end up increasing volunteerism through that concept of social proofing, so a thank you becomes much more than a thank you. It becomes an open door for other people to volunteer.

It’s Not Just New Volunteers

Of course, it isn’t just about recruiting new volunteers. Remember the old campfire song, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and other’s gold”? Like friends, new volunteers and old volunteers each have their own value. Without volunteer retention, organizations are left in a continuous state of retraining new recruits. Long-standing volunteers save time and resources, hold institutional knowledge, and provide continuity.

According to the 2017 Volunteer Impact Report, only 55 percent of nonprofits are measuring the impact that volunteers are having on the organization’s goals. But those 55 percent are enjoying 19 percent higher recruitment and retention because volunteers can see that their work matters.

What’s the best way to retain volunteers? Yes, you guessed it – thank them. Retention is cemented by thanking volunteers verbally, passing along praise, and acknowledging their work in writing. When volunteers log their hours, it’s easy to track their work and give concrete examples of how their contribution impacts the organization. Volunteers reported that hearing feedback about the impact of their work plays a big role in keeping them engaged in the organization.

Not All ‘Thank Yous’ are Equal

Canadian researchers found that 80 percent of volunteers would like to be thanked by hearing about how their work has made a difference. However, there are other ways to give volunteers warm feelings of appreciation.

For instance, Cabot provides delicious meals through the Gratitude Touring Team, taking care of nourishment by providing grilled cheese to keep volunteers fueled. We also celebrate volunteerism with our celebrity cruise and by promoting the use of Reward Volunteers. While younger people expressed a desire for small gifts, all volunteers stated they would rather be recognized throughout the year on an informal basis rather than saved up for a single event like a ball or a banquet.

So, set aside time today to see if you fit with the 55 percent of organizations that are tracking volunteer impact. Then, let your volunteers know how much you appreciate them with a big, heartfelt thank you, and maybe a little grilled cheese to boot.

Are you a Points of Light Network affiliate? Take advantage of a special section of Cabot’s Department of Gratitude designed just for our members, including a customized marketing toolkit to help you share these resources with your network and volunteers!

Madi Donham