The 5 Top Techniques for Motivating and Recognizing Volunteers

We’ve discussed before how volunteers are an important part of the youth sports league family, but are you showering them with gratitude? Do you know if your volunteers know that their hard work is appreciated?  Are you remembering that it’s much easier to retain an existing volunteer than it is to recruit a new one?

Volunteers aren’t people to take for granted. They do important work for our organization, no matter how big or small the league may be. Volunteers can help raise funds, clean up, teach athletes and run events. Whatever the task, it is one that might not be done if someone had not raised their hand to help – and that’s worth celebrating.

Hard-working volunteers deserve praise and recognition for their efforts, but unless the organization has made it a business practice, it is often forgotten. Typically volunteers don’t ask for thanks – they do what they’re asked to do because they want to, not for a reward. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t deserve praise and thanks when they do perform tasks and work hard.

Happy volunteers will return and speak positively of their experience in the community, in return bringing a more positive attitude to the “job”, reflecting well on the organization, and possibly, encouraging more volunteer to join your ranks. We gathered a few tips to help you recognize and motivate your volunteers.

1. Volunteer Luncheon

Youth sports league volunteers often work hard to put together fundraisers and events for a league, but do you remember to host them? A volunteer luncheon ( ice cream social, cocktail, breakfast or dinner are also options) doesn’t have to be something big and fancy – or expensive, but it should be arranged by those who aren’t volunteers as thanks for the hard work performed by volunteers themselves.

A luncheon should include a free meal, perhaps donated by a sponsor or made by league members/the families of the athletes, and a heartfelt speech by league members, coaches, or even athletes. This lets volunteers relax, mingle and be taken care of for once, instead of the other way around.

2. Commemorative T-Shirts

Everyone loves having tangible evidence of their accomplishments, and what better way than through a t-shirt? Gather a list of all youth sports league volunteers and arrange them alphabetically. Arrange for a set of t-shirts to be made featuring these names, then hand them out to volunteers at an event later in the league season.

3. Being Grateful and Communicative

One of the simplest ways to effectively communicate your appreciation to a volunteer is to simply tell them that you care – and this can actually mean more to someone than a luncheon or gift. If you are a league member, or even a parent or coach, pull aside a volunteer that you see is doing a spectacular job and tell them that you feel as such.

“I’m really grateful that you decided to volunteer for us,” or “You’ve been doing an incredible job today” are both simple ways to communicate that you acknowledge their hard work and feel strongly enough to commend them for it.

4. Regular Powwows

To keep volunteers motivated, regularly call them together to have group volunteer powwows. Tell them all that you’re glad they showed up and look forward to an excellent job. Get them riled up to perform well and do good work. Volunteers love knowing that what they’re doing isn’t thankless, and you have countless opportunities to do this both before and after events and meetings.

Volunteer meetings are also an excellent time to ask for their input. Volunteer are often on the ground and able to detect areas or improvements that can greatly enhance service to your users, save money to the league, or ease the workload.

5. Hand-written card during “National Volunteer Appreciation Week”

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is in September. If your league is small enough, take the time to gather your Board members, and have them sign a hand-written thank you note. If you have too many volunteers, Task one of your Board member to sign the cards and mail them. You can get cards made with your logo or a favorite league photo online or via a local printer.

An alternative to the individual cards, or an add-on, is to post an ad or an op-ed in the local paper, to thank and praise your volunteers. In addition to recognizing their hard work, it shows the community that you are a class-act.