Position Vacant – Thank You Sergeant
Today’s tip has to do with applying an enthusiastic and consistent approach to acknowledging your volunteers. Of all the fundraising volunteer opportunities, this is a pretty fun one!
I was at the hairdresser the other day and another customer, upon hearing what I do, complained that she had recently put a lot of work into a fundraising event, to receive no mention at all at the P&C meeting. It left her feeling very flat.
The P&C President made the mistake of asking her afterwards if she would take on the role of fete convenor for the following year – she just laughed.
Consistency and Recognition
She also mentioned to me that the fete convenor the previous year had been given a bunch of flowers as a thank-you, whereas the organiser of a dinner (with less profits) was given a substantial gift voucher. I’ve since heard another story where a fete convenor was given a touching hand-written thank you note one year (when she wasn’t even convenor) and the following fete when she was co-convenor and they had increased profits by 50%, each convenor was given exactly the same card containing exactly the same message with no effort made to personalise or thank them for their individual contributions. It left her and the other co-convenors feeling unappreciated.
There is nothing more demotivating for a volunteer than not being acknowledged, or having your acknowledgment undermined by inconsistency. No, we’re not in it for the glory, but if you want us to stick around for the long-haul, you’d sure better treat us right!
The Thank You Sergeant Role
I have long advocated for community groups to appoint a ‘Thank-You Sergeant’ – a person who is perhaps unable to offer a big time commitment but still wants to make a meaningful contribution. On my way home from the hairdresser, I decided I would write a Position Description template and share it with you 🙂
You can customise this to suit your own group, and then go on the hunt for the right person for the job.
How to say Thank You
You will then need to figure out a consistent approach to how you say ‘thank you’. I’m a big fan of personalised hand-written cards – they can mean far more than a gift. At the very least, a quick email is better than nothing!
A couple of ideas I’ve canvassed in the past: print out thank-you certificates that the volunteer’s child can hand to them on parade – how proud would they be?!? Organise a $20 coffee voucher to be donated every month, then all volunteers get a ticket every time they help out, and the prize is drawn at random. Mentioning people by name in newsletters can also make people feel special.
If someone has gone above and beyond, something like writing a short simple poem and reading it out on assembly is a gesture that will be remembered long after we have burned off the calories from that box of chocolates!
Saying ‘thank you’ is the right thing to do but in our busy lives (we’re all volunteers after all!) these simple gestures can be so easily forgotten. The added bonus is that you’ll retain your valuable volunteers for the long-haul!
Appoint your ‘Thank You Sergeant’ today, and make sure no-one is inadvertently overlooked in the future!
Author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers and publisher of the Fundraising Directory
Originally published May 22, 2015
Click here for a downloadable version of the position description set out below.
‘Thank You Sergeant’
P & C Committee
Unicorn State School, Unicorn Springs
Time Commitment: Minimal and flexible (we’d love a commitment for a full year)
The Unicorn State School P & C committee is passionate about improving the academic, social and physical environment for USS students. We love to show appreciation to the volunteers and supporters of our school, and are looking for a person who is dedicated to expressing thanks on our behalf. We want everyone to feel amazing about helping us achieve great outcomes for our students.
Our ‘Thank You Sergeant’ will be great at communicating with others and use initiative to stay on top of ‘who is needing a vote of thanks’. They will have the ability to meet deadlines and follow through. Some imagination is required, as well as being able to work with a painfully limited budget 😉 The role suits those who need a flexible schedule – most of it can be done remotely – but still want to make a meaningful contribution that makes a difference.
- Communicating with the P&C committee, volunteers and teachers
- Co-ordinating a short regular newsletter segment thanking volunteers
- Creating and running ongoing reward programs such as a monthly raffle for volunteers
- Organising and managing one-off events such as an volunteer break-up cocktail party
- Writing thank-you cards or emails as appropriate
- Preparing thank-you certificates that the volunteer’s child can present them on assembly