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Most activity professionals rely on the help of others to ensure events and interventions are successful.
Whether you have a full volunteer roster, a small (but mighty) team of assistants, or even just a few residents who help out when they can, it’s important that you take time to thank them throughout the year.
Benefits of Active Appreciation Efforts
No matter if you only have one volunteer on your roster right now or if you have a team of 20, it takes helping hands to make your department succeed. Making a conscious effort to practice active appreciation for those that pitch in for your events, activities, or interventions can lead to multiple benefits, such as:
- Higher staff retention (employees that feel appreciated tend to stay longer)
- Increased community morale
- More volunteer referrals (appreciated volunteers tend to invite their friends to come along)
- Empowered resident volunteers
- More joyful volunteers and helpers at your events
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or invest a lot of planning time in order to make your volunteers and staff feel appreciated. Instead, you can choose to make appreciation a part of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routine. It won’t take long for you to begin seeing - and feeling - the difference a little “thank you” can make.
You should aim to develop an active appreciation for your team and volunteers on a daily basis. This is the easiest to implement right away because it just takes a few kind words to start expressing your gratitude. Try one habit to begin implementing today:
- Tell your team thank you at your morning staff meetings
- High five a volunteer after an activity
- Write one appreciation note to a volunteer or team member to send in the mail
- Write one email to a volunteer or team member to say thank you
- Point out when a team member or volunteer does something great
- Pass out stickers for a job well done (these are a fun option)
Saying “thank you” daily goes a long way, and your team will appreciate it. However, you can also add in some fun surprises weekly to say thanks as well:
- Buy a coffee for one team member or volunteer each week (rotate through your roster so that no one is left out unintentionally)
- Write a Happy Note to one person that says thank you for a specific task
- Trace your hand on colorful paper and cut it out. Write “High Five!” on the palm and pass out “high fives” with personalized notes on the back to your team. Stick them in surprising places, like their desk chair or lunch box.
Now that you’re actively appreciating your team and volunteers daily and weekly, it’s time to up your game with some fun monthly appreciation:
- Honor and highlight a Team Member of the Month (or Volunteer of the Month) with a write-up in the newsletter and a shout-out on social media
- Treat your team to lunch or dessert (my team loved when we brought in an ice cream truck to the parking lot as an extra sweet treat)
- Have residents tell team members “thank you” via video and share at your monthly staff meeting
- Have the Administrator write a note to your team or volunteers to thank them for their efforts (other department heads can write one too; stagger them so that one department writes a note for one month only)
Regular monthly practices can also express appreciation, such as:
- Honoring time-off requests when possible
- Encouraging team members or volunteers to take time off if you can tell they are stressed out or struggling
- Keeping team members up-to-date on insurance benefits or any changes that could impact them directly
Finally, cap off your appreciation for your team and volunteers with an event each year. You can celebrate volunteers during Volunteer Appreciation Month, which is typically April. For your team members, consider celebrating them during Activity Professionals Month in January.
- Host a luncheon, dinner, or Happy Hour with a fun theme
- Pass out gifts at the celebration
- Honor and recognize employees or volunteers who have been with the organization for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and 25 years
- Have residents write notes of appreciation to pass out all month long
- Have family members write notes of appreciation to pass out all month long
- Write a thoughtful note to each team member or volunteer recalling specific things they did that you are thankful for - the more personalized, the better!
- Pass out “I’ll Do It For You” cards for your team to use; they can take a break while you run their activity or do their task (set good rules with this one, but it’s a fun tradition once it gets going!)
- Honor team members or volunteers at the next all-staff meeting, as well as in the next Resident Council meeting
- Have the Resident Council write an official “thank you” declaration to read aloud during your annual appreciation event
- Work with local vendors or partners to obtain coupons or freebies to pass out to team members or volunteers. For example, free ice cream at a favorite spot or 50% off spa services.
Even the best Activity Directors can get too busy to say thank you sometimes. The key is making appreciation a part of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routine. Your staff and volunteers will love the gratitude and they will feel even more important and dedicated to serving the residents.
What are some special ways you thank your team and volunteers? I’m always looking for new ideas!