Does your school act on volunteer appreciation ideas to show genuine gratitude for engaged parents who go above and beyond their expectations? If not, it’s time to take a fresh look at volunteer recognition and why it matters.
Schools love willing volunteers, and it’s important they know it. But being grateful is only a feeling, while showing gratitude is an active process that involves more than a thank you. Acknowledgment for a job well done makes people feel more appreciated and important. And that leads to happier helpers and higher membership retention.
This page offers ten volunteer appreciation gift ideas and ways to express genuine gratitude. Researchers have known for some time that rewards and recognition are positive reinforcement means to incentivize human behavior. Therefore, parent volunteers who receive a small thank you gift are more likely to continue volunteering than those who don’t .
10 Volunteer Recognition and Appreciation Gift Ideas
Volunteers are rockstars. They are the unpaid, unsung heroes of parent-teacher groups. They also champion the cause, spreading the word about the group to attract positive attention. All without asking for anything in return.
This graphic shows the morale and strategic advantages of volunteering.
The ten recognition and appreciation gift ideas below are small rewards for the efforts of PTA/PTO volunteers. They guarantee to keep your Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), parent teacher organization (PTO), or Booster Club helpers engaged.
#1 Hand Written Thank You Notes, Letters, and Cards
Emails, text messages, and verbal thanks are quick and convenient. But they can also come across as a little impersonal, even if they include heartfelt words. In contrast, a handwritten thank you gives a more personal touch. It shows you’ve made a concerted effort to express your genuine appreciation for a job well done.
|Tip: If you type rather than write a thank you note on physical paper, invest in quality stationery. Still start your note by hand (My Dear Name,) and always add a handwritten signature. Small touches like these make a massive difference.|
#2 Volunteer of the Week/Month
You don’t have to wait for an annual awards ceremony to try new volunteer recognition ideas. Any time is the right time to show parent-teacher appreciation for your group’s dedicated, hardworking helpers. Consider celebrating one person’s achievements each week, month, or quarter.
Every unpaid helper, in whatever capacity, is worthy of recognition. Randomly highlighting individual contributors, big and small, is a fantastic way to keep your volunteers engaged while boosting their self-worth and satisfaction of a job well done.
#3 Personalized Merchandise Gift Giveaways
Personalized messages printed onto bags, t-shirts, cushions, and coffee mugs go over well with volunteers. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to show how much you value their efforts. Maybe someone in the group has a sublimation printer and is happy to help. The secret is to present practical, bespoke gifts the person can use or wear.
A few other customized gift ideas include:
- Plastic water bottles
- Can coolers
- Personalized keychains
- Stress balls
- Hats and scarfs
- Thank you flowers with personalized gift cards
- A thank you graffiti wall
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#4 Zoom Get-Togethers
It hasn’t always been possible to coordinate real-world, face-to-face events during the COVID-19 pandemic. But during this time, many parents and teachers have gotten familiar with ZOOM calls. You can utilize video calls to host formal or informal volunteer appreciation events, virtual dinner parties, award ceremonies, and more.
|The third week of April is National Volunteer Week and a great time to show your appreciation. But don’t restrict volunteer recognition to a single annual event. Instead, aim to express your gratitude year-round in various creative ways.|
#5 Transportation Stipend
Transportation stipends are an excellent way to recognize parent-teacher volunteers who travel to events. Your helpers are sure to appreciate help with public transport costs or financial contributions towards gas. However, mileage reimbursement must be made at the federal rate set by the IRS. Anything above that may count as taxable income and could have tax implications for your group and its volunteers.
The transport stipend is a popular incentive for encouraging continual engagement. And the further the event, the more appreciated the compensation.
#6 Thank You Celebrations
Volunteer appreciation parties are significant bonding events fostering friendships and strengthening trust in a relaxed, fun environment. You can host them to recognize individuals or the entire group for their hours served or dollars raised. Delicious food, drinks, and camaraderie inspire people to continue their commitment.
Other festive recognition ideas could be:
- Host a garden party or BBQ
- Treat volunteers to a luncheon meeting
- Get everyone together to thank them over afternoon tea
- Lawn games make for fun team building activities
You might also want to use these casual celebrations to present surprise gifts. Personalized awards or certificates of appreciation can help make your events extra special.
|AmeriCorps Study: Around 40% of US parents volunteer their time and expertise, contributing around 2.0 billion hours of service.|
#7 Volunteer Recognition Swag Bags
Present your helpers with practical swag bags. Include promotional handout material along with some personal items to show your appreciation for all their help. It’s up to you what makes up the swag, but here are some practical ideas.
- Custom T-shirts and sun hats
- Reusable water bottles
- Flyers and stickers
- Customized tote bags
#8 Social Media Shout-Outs
Use your group’s social media pages to highlight your helpers’ contributions, adding photos of them in action. Include personal information like specific roles and accomplishments. Try to publish the shout-out in story form to keep it interesting. Use pictures, videos, and whatever media works for your audience.
Short but focused hot seat interviews of star volunteers add further to the message of congratulation and appreciation. Social media shout-outs don’t only show thanks for the club’s volunteers; they also attract other potential helpers.
Point to Note: Ensure your group members sign a media release/acknowledgment form beforehand, giving their consent to being featured on the group’s social media.
Extend Your Reach
Most parent-teacher groups have Facebook pages but consider adding other popular social media platforms if you want to extend your group’s reach.
The most popular social media platforms in the US are:
How to Recruit Volunteers on Social Media
Highlighting volunteers on your social media is not only a great way to show appreciation, it can be an opportunity to get other parents interested in being a part of your organization by showing off how much fun it is.
Keep a consistent strategy when promoting your parent-teacher group on social media. Share compelling content and post regular updates of current and forthcoming projects in addition to highlighting your volunteers. Use these updates to educate your audience and invite questions.
Lastly, always include sign-up links in your posts and bio.
#9 National Volunteer Week
The third week of April is National Volunteer Week across the US. It’s the time of year when volunteering gets the most exposure. April gives you the perfect opportunity to shine a light on your club and the many helpers that make it a success.
One way to show your recognition for volunteerism is by featuring simplified, high-profile case studies. These can help highlight the impact your volunteers have made for your students and school.
Another approach is to post photos of your best helpers with short inspirational quotes. Calling out everyone’s name on a video presentation or live event is another way to express your appreciation.
#10 Group Outings
Group outings can be so much fun when planned around something everyone will enjoy. For example, you don’t want to arrange a trip to a folk music concert if 50 percent of your group has no interest in that genre. A simple poll is a good way to discover what type of outing your team is most likely to enjoy.
Excursions show helper recognition like celebratory events. They force interaction in a good way, and with that comes camaraderie, laughter, and shared enthusiasm. An eventful trip gives everyone access to the group’s supervisor(s), thus removing any stiff, perceived unapproachable barriers.
Fun days out show you care and bring the causes and people closer together.
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Volunteer appreciation strategies are critical for the long-term success of your parent-teacher group. It fosters retention and boosts recruitment. Moreover, your group members are more likely to keep at it when they feel noticed and appreciated by group leaders.