Volunteers don't need incentives to participate in a cause they believe in: the reward is knowing that they made a positive contribution to the world. Then, they get other benefits from participating in worthy causes, like gaining social skills and a sense of purpose and community. However, organizations can always reward their participation with meaningful volunteer appreciation gifts beyond lapel pins.
Lapel pins are fun gifts but are not always meaningful. A meaningful gift is one that the volunteer can also use routinely: for example, pens, pads, tote bags, etc. Organizations can go beyond these classic volunteer appreciation gift ideas and find something even more meaningful to show appreciation. Here are some examples of customizable (with your company's logo and mission statement) gifts:
Lunch/Cooler Bag: volunteers spend hours on the road, and they may not find the time to go to a cafe, food stand, or restaurant to eat. They pack a lunch. A lunch or cooler bag is a meaningful volunteer appreciation gift they can use daily.
Stainless steel travel tumblers: ideal for hot and cold beverages, the travel tumblers are practical for every occasion on the go. Volunteers will use them beyond their volunteering activities: going to school, to work, on holiday, and so on.
Stationery gift set: a classic volunteer appreciation gift idea, the stationery set is nevertheless valuable, especially if it contains more than two items like a notepad and a pen. Consider also including a journal or a jotter with sticky notes.
Wellness water bottles (reusable): many volunteers will appreciate the gift of a reusable water bottle. Volunteers are all mindful of the environment, so everything meant to protect it and promote sustainability is meaningful. Plus: they will carry the water bottle with them every day, wherever they go, thus tacitly promoting your cause as they show pride in volunteering for it.
Hooded sweatshirts, t-shirts, apparel: these are classic volunteer appreciation gifts people love to wear not only during their volunteering hours but also at home. These gifts never go out of style, but you should always give apparel produced by environmentally-conscious manufacturers, as most volunteers care a lot about this aspect.
Gift box: a gift box containing either cosmetics, a selection of teas, spices, aromatherapy oils, scented candles, or other thoughtful surprises will go a long way to show your gratitude for your volunteers.
Besides giving volunteers corporate appreciation gifts like the ones listed above, there are many other ways to show them how much you value their contribution and how much you need them:
Organize a party, like a cookout, themed dinner, picnic, or potluck at the end of the program to celebrate a job well done.
Shout out to volunteers on social media, blog posts, newsletters, and even interviews with the media to show your appreciation.
Give them tickets to local events, seminars, and personal development workshops.
Provide bus passes to volunteers who use this form of transportation to travel to their volunteering sites.
Keep a database of volunteers' email addresses and send them greeting cards and personalized messages on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas.
While volunteers don't expect any material gain from their work, such tokens of appreciation will boost their morale, motivate, and inspire them, promoting long-term engagement and commitment.
For organizations, especially those depending on volunteers to reach strategic goals, these outcomes are valuable gains. In addition, positive reinforcement for volunteers fosters an environment of social reciprocity which benefits all the parts involved in a program.