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Caitlin Fillmore

Caitlin Fillmore

Major Gifts Today Editor

4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Volunteers in April

The United States celebrates National Volunteer Month every April to recognize the people of all ages who give their time and expertise to nonprofits.

Volunteers hold the hand of a dying hospice patient, help spruce up their church, advocate for kids in court, and distribute thousands of pounds of food every week. Without these generous people, many essential functions of nonprofits could grind to a halt.

With this in mind, does your organization have an intentional plan to recognize and celebrate these indispensable people? Even nonprofits without a volunteer appreciation budget can incorporate meaningful actions to make their volunteers feel valued. Consider these four simple ways to celebrate volunteers in April:

  1. Develop Creative Awards
  2. Host an Appreciation Event
  3. Gift Exclusive Merchandise
  4. Tally Up the Effort


Develop Creative Awards

Did you receive any superlatives in high school? Maybe you were voted Best Smile or Most Likely to Succeed. Borrow this fun idea to honor your volunteers with creative and lighthearted titles.

This low-cost or no-cost idea clearly communicates to your volunteers that you see and appreciate their unique gifts. Do you have someone on your team you always trust for detail-oriented projects? Crown them “Most Meticulous.” Does one of your volunteers always whistle while they work? Sounds like they are “Most Likely to be Office DJ.”

Keep the monikers lighthearted and good-spirited. Try to avoid anything that may touch on an obvious or hidden sensitivity for your volunteer.

Write a short summary about their performance that illustrates this title. This shows how much you observe their specific contribution to your mission. Consider pairing the label with a silly photo for a creative, thoughtful, and affordable keepsake.


Host an Appreciation Event

If you have a bit of budget to work with, consider hosting a volunteer appreciation event this April. Spend time recognizing volunteers and honoring their work along with treats appropriate for your audience.

Consider your mission when planning your volunteer appreciation event. If your organization’s volunteers are primarily elders, plan an afternoon luncheon. For nonprofits with an arts focus, try to incorporate the music, dance, or visual art your volunteers love in your event for an exclusive performance.

If there is a way to incorporate individual recognition, this provides the highest impact for your volunteer appreciation event. For large organizations with a huge roster of volunteers, consider other ways to highlight the individual volunteer. Publish a placemat with every volunteer’s name on it or develop a slideshow with everyone’s name or photo to play during the event or cocktail hour.


Gift Exclusive Merchandise

Volunteers love small tokens that show off their favorite nonprofit. If you have the ability to gift volunteers something that says your organization’s name and “volunteer”, they will proudly display this merchandise. Not only is this a great way to recognize and reward loyal volunteers, this is also an effective marketing tool!

If merchandise specifically for volunteers isn’t in your budget, consider releasing merchandise to your volunteers first before the general public. Placing a large order helps you save money and using this strategy can help you build buzz for a merchandise-based fundraiser. Be sure to take photos of your volunteers with the merchandise and share on social media.


Tally Up the Effort

Turn to mathematics to help you celebrate your volunteers with this thoughtful idea. Nonprofits should be collecting valuable volunteer data year-round. This data helps organizations apply for grants and communicate their true impact on annual reports.

Collect not only contact information from your volunteers, but also how many hours they spend volunteering, how many miles they drive, and what type of work they accomplish. With America’s volunteer time valued at nearly $30 per hour, completing this exercise provides a useful perspective on your essential volunteers.

During April, tally up the individual contributions from your volunteers based on this compiled data. You (and your volunteer!) will be amazed at the hours or miles they have accumulated and all the projects where they contributed.

Often in nonprofit work we can rush from one milestone to another without taking time to put our progress into perspective. Use volunteer data for a no-cost, quantifiable way to identify the individual contributions of each of your volunteers.

If you are artistically-inclined, design a themed poster boasting the volunteer’s yearly highlights, maybe like the statistics on a baseball card! If graphic design isn’t your strength, include this data in a heartfelt letter written to each volunteer.


Develop a Year-Round Appreciation Plan

The best way to appreciate your volunteers in April is by treating them well all year round. Take the time in April to develop a year-round volunteer appreciation plan.

Consider sending a birthday card to your volunteers on their special day. If that feels too dicey, opt for a card that celebrates their anniversary or years of service helping your organization.

In addition to April, think about how volunteers can be incorporated during other special occasions. Does it make sense to invite volunteers to your annual meeting or holiday parties?

Schedule monthly “office hours” where volunteers can feel free to drop in and discuss any questions or concerns they may have. Sometimes the best way to make someone feel appreciated is by simply listening to them.



Even though we are already in April, there is still time to recognize and celebrate your valuable volunteers. Whether you have a significant budget or no funds at all, organizations can still extend meaningful appreciation efforts to their volunteers.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.