Volunteers: we can’t do ministry without them. We all know how hard it can be to recruit good volunteers, but that’s only half the battle. Once you have a great team of volunteers, you have to actually keep them around. Now, I’m not going to say that there is some kind of magic formula or secret potion to keep volunteers from quitting. Some volunteers are going to quit regardless of what you do, and you have to learn to not take it personally. Here is a list of things I have done to appreciate my team. I hope that it can be helpful to you and your team as well. Enjoy!
1. Birthday Cards/Gift Cards
I ask all my volunteers what their birthday is and their favorite place to get a gift card. I have a helpful document I keep on my computer, and every month I just check to see who’s birthday falls on that month. Write a handwritten note to them, even if your handwriting is similar to that of a 5 year-old (like mine). People appreciate the personal touch and effort.
Bonus: give one to a volunteer just because they are doing an exceptional job! They will appreciate the fact that you noticed and cared (plus who doesn’t love an unexpected gift card).
2. Volunteer Meeting Gift Card Drawing
Every month we get together to meet as a team. One incentive I give my volunteers for going above and beyond is a drawing for a $50 gift card of their choice. The only two stipulations are: 1. You get your name in the drawing every time you serve at a set design or event (outside normal services) and 2. You must attend the meeting to receive the gift card. If we call someone’s name who isn’t at the meeting, we draw another name. We have definitely seen an increase in attendance of meetings since we instigated this incentive. One leader has been drawn 3 times now! I’m kinda jealous.
3. Quality food at meetings/events
Don’t expect your volunteers to show up for a meeting or volunteer event if you’re feeding them the same old, stale pizza they get at every kids’ event (yes, the $5 hot-n-ready pizza’s from Little Caesar’s). I like to change it up at meetings. Our team’s favorites include Olive Garden, Taco Cabana, Palio’s Pizza (gourmet pizza), and Jimmy John’s. My volunteers always love it when I make them some homemade cookies or brownies too. If you don’t have the budget to bring in something nicer, make them a home-cooked meal like chili or tacos. They will appreciate the extra effort, and will love the fact that it’s not pizza again.
4. Breakfast every Sunday
I started picking up donuts for my team every Sunday a few months back and I’ve concluded that this does two important things. First, volunteers feel appreciated because you are giving them yummy donuts but it takes one thing off their plate on a Sunday morning when they are trying to rush out the door to be there on time to serve. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. After all, who has time to eat breakfast on a Sunday morning? Definitely not kidmin volunteers!
5. Clever candy/gifts
We have all seen the adorable candy puns to use as gifts to appreciate volunteers. I have used many of these, and they are definitely a great choice if you are trying to do something quick and on a budget. For an added personal touch, keep a list of your volunteers’ favorite candies. Give each volunteer their favorite candy with a cute pun about how much you appreciate them. I did this near Valentine’s Day as a surprise and they all loved it. If you are looking for more ideas like this, check out my Pinterest board: Leader Appreciation.
6. Candy Buffet
A candy buffet is like my last suggestion on steroids. The funny thing is that this is actually easier to put together, but it looks way cooler. I did an Easter candy buffet last Sunday at our monthly volunteer meeting and everyone just loved it. The week before, I asked all my volunteers in our Facebook groups what their favorite Easter candy was. I made a list, and bought all of their favorite Easter candies and turned it into a buffet. I got the cute little baskets/buckets at Dollar Tree and the adorable chevron buckets from Oriental Trading. I found some cute little Easter sayings printables online, printed them on cardstock, and hot-glued them to dowel rods. The volunteers were able to go down the line, and fill the bucket of their choice with all the Easter goodies their heart desired.
7. Exclusive volunteer snack station/refrigerator
This is probably the idea my volunteers appreciate the most. I have a mini fridge and food area backstage in our main kids’ ministry room that I keep stocked at all times. I take requests from the volunteers (not all of their requests are back there all the time), and it’s also a great place to put leftover food/snacks from events for people to eat. We have a few “mascot snacks” in Gen Kids that we always keep around. It seems like everyone on the Gen Kids team loves Cheez-its and Oreos. We just can’t stop eating them. The fridge is always full of water bottles and sodas. This is extremely helpful after a sweaty worship time with the kids! There is one important rule that I enforce religiously: You can only have access to the snack station/refrigerator while you are serving at a Gen Kids service or event.
8. Volunteer candy bucket
This was actually suggested to me as a joke by one of my volunteers. They said, “The kids always eat all the good candy out of the candy bucket. We should just have a leader candy bucket with all the candy we like in it!” My response was, “Why not?” I asked all my leaders what their favorite candy was, labeled a bucket, and bought some candy. Done.
I know everyone may not have the budget to do all of these things, but I would encourage you to prioritize appreciating your team. Choose 1 or 2 of these ideas to get you started. After all, volunteers are our most important and valuable resource. Shouldn’t we treat them that way?
What are you doing to appreciate your volunteers? I would love to hear some fresh ideas to try out on my team.