52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Acknowledging Our Volunteers—Don’t Let the Opportunity Pass You By

July 31, 2020

With so many nonprofits cancelling, postponing, or moving their big annual celebrations, galas, graduations, and fundraisers, not only are nonprofits seeking new opportunities for revenue generation, they may have also missed out on their annual volunteer appreciation celebrations.

Did your organization take your regular volunteer appreciation event or celebration off the schedule for this year? With restrictions on in-person gatherings and celebrations, this is definitely a sign of the times and a necessity across the country. But, have you taken the opportunity to acknowledge the good work of your volunteers in other ways? The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector has always highlighted the important work of volunteers who work generously and tirelessly to help nonprofits meet their important community missions.

What can you do to recognize your volunteers, even in the midst of moratoriums on big in-person gatherings? Consider some of these options:

  • You could write a feature on your volunteers in your newsletter or your annual report.
  • You could recognize your volunteers on social media.
  • You could hold a phone call “thank-a-thon” for your volunteers.
  • You could do a fun socially distant virtual volunteer celebration.
  • You could send a small thank you gift.
  • You could send old-fashioned hand-written thank you notes.

There are many opportunities to consider for recognizing your beloved, and valuable, volunteers. You may even have some volunteers who traditionally serve in roles where they support your organization in an office or in-person setting who may love to help coordinate or lead efforts to ramp up volunteer recognition at this time.

The Standards for Excellence educational packet on Volunteer Policies addresses the benefits of volunteer policies, how to develop volunteer policies, preparing for incorporating volunteers into an organization’s efforts, initial assessment and screening of volunteers, volunteer training, ongoing volunteer supervision and evaluation, motivating and encouraging volunteers and recognizing and providing opportunities for volunteer advancement. Of course, volunteer motivation includes recognizing the important contributions of your volunteers! The package includes: a Model Volunteer Program Policies and Procedures, a Position Description for Volunteer Coordinator, Sample Volunteer Policies, a Sample Volunteer Agreement, and a Sample Agreement for Unpaid interns.

The full series of Standards for Excellence educational packets include sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management. They can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

We share our sincere wishes for your continued good health and patience as we all navigate these challenging and uncertain times.



Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.

A-Z resource on nonprofit best practices

Advocating for the interests of families and youth

Promoting a thriving and effective nonprofit sector

Nonpartisan initiative promoting investment in MD’s communities