Best Practice (BP):

Best practices are specific, discrete ministry activities that measurably increase program scale, effectiveness, and/or efficiency, and can be replicated by other National Ministries. Best practices should be supported by evidence (data).

Show your appreciation for volunteers/Invest in and care for volunteers

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Benefits

Volunteers are responsible for making the ministry run and have a significant role in the ministry’s success. Appreciating, knowing, and celebrating volunteers increases the likelihood of continuing to spend their time contributing to the ministry and recommending it to others.

Building camaraderie among the volunteers and staff provides encouragement, support, and opportunities to learn and grow.

Since the volunteer base is built around a common faith, caring for volunteers can be discipleship and strengthen everyone spiritually.

Planning Considerations

  1. Prepare
    • Answer these questions:
      • Why do people volunteer?
      • How might our volunteers want to be recognized?
      • How can recognition become part of our organization’s culture?
      • When, where, and how can you engage your volunteers effectively?
    • Survey current volunteers to understand the current state of volunteer recognition. Consider asking questions like:
      • Do you feel appreciated for your volunteer time and effort?
      • Do you know the impact your volunteering is having?
      • Would you recommend volunteering with our organization to a friend, family member, or your church?
      • What could we be doing to recognize volunteers better?
    • Review survey responses, determine the gaps and create a plan to address them.
    • Determine a budget for volunteer appreciation.
    • Make it a priority – designate an individual or team to lead an ongoing volunteer appreciation effort.
    • Create or modify a database to track volunteers – name, role, track time, birthday, etc.
  2. Roll-out
    • Plan, schedule, and host a volunteer appreciation event.
    • Track volunteer time to accurately reflect the work that they are doing for the ministry.
    • Incorporate volunteers into the work of the ministry – invite them to meetings, solicit their feedback.
    • Be specific with appreciation. Do not use a generic “thank you.”
    • Incorporate International Volunteer Day – 5 December.
    • Create an annual volunteer impact report.
    • Consider incorporating any or all of the following to show volunteers that they matter:
      • Listen to volunteer concerns and suggestions.
      • Spend time getting to know your volunteers – their skills and dreams.
      • Celebration long-serving volunteers.
      • Celebrate personal volunteer successes (at home or school).
      • Invite them for coffee.
      • Promote their ideas among your ministry.
      • Photos or letters from the people you serve.
      • Deliver handmade cards for birthdays or holidays.
      • Write recognition letters — recognizing the specific impact a volunteer had.
      • Interview your volunteers and tell their stories.
      • Recognize volunteers on your website.
      • Create a thank-you video.
      • Create name badges for volunteers.
      • Provide team shirts with the ministry logo.
      • Invest in your volunteers:
        • Leadership opportunities (regional coordinators)
        • Community ambassadors (speaking for your ministry at church services)
        • Career training
  3. Follow Up
    • Create regular communication channels with your volunteers.
    • Always lead with gratitude.
    • Plan regular volunteer gatherings.
    • Develop feedback loops with volunteers to allow their voices to help shape the ministry.
    • Schedule regular times for your office to pray for volunteers.
    • Create a channel for prayer requests from volunteers.
    • Develop consistent practices for encouraging volunteers – notes, emails, texts, videos, etc.

Volunteer Canada suggests the following as core principles for volunteer recognition:

  • Do it often
  • Do it in different ways – formal and informal
  • Be sincere
  • Recognize the person, not the work
  • Make it appropriate to the achievement
  • Be consistent
  • Be timely
  • Customize it
  • Follow-up

Required Resources

  1. Human Resources.
    1. Someone will be needed to oversee volunteer appreciation.
    2. Someone will need to create and review the initial volunteer survey
    3. Someone will need to enter volunteer data into the database.
  2. Systems. You will need a system/database for volunteer information to reside in.
  3. Collateral.
    1. Impact report.
    2. Invitations (print and web-based).
    3. Thank-you cards.
    4. Photos, videos, letters
  4. Time.
    1. Managing volunteers
    2. Regularly contacting volunteers.
    3. Event preparation.
  5. Space. You will need space to hold events.
  6. Cost. The cost varies. Considerations include types of collateral, travel expenses, event costs (location, meals, gifts), team apparel or badges, types of communication (email, phone, text).

Example

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, families of volunteers were short on food. PF Colombia gathered food baskets and gifted them to the volunteer families in need. This is a demonstration of

  1. Being connected and informed personally with volunteers- understanding their lives and circumstances;
  2. Responding and caring for them in times of need.

NM with Demonstrated Experience in this BP

Colombia
Uruguay
Bulgaria
Albania
Czech Republic
Singapore

Editor's Notebook

This first issue of 2022 features the final Best Practice (BP) in our initial series related to volunteers. How fitting that today’s concluding BP is about investing in and caring for our volunteers — our stalwart heroes without whom we could not accomplish our mission.

Before we close this first chapter of Best Practices and start the next chapter featuring Restorative Practices to help you increase effectiveness, we include two previous articles about volunteers that are worth revisiting: “Our Most Valuable Resources” and “Prepare Your Volunteers for Success with Prison Orientations.”

New Year’s blessings,
Christine