The New Attitude in Gratitude

This month, we celebrated National Volunteer Week -- a great opportunity for all of us in the nonprofit sector to come together, "celebrate service" and recognize the collective power of volunteers. Each year, we use this month to thank those who generously give their time and talents to help us meet our missions and serve our communities. Though thank you emails and parties are often needed, let's find a way to really show our gratitude to our volunteers this year.

I would argue that many volunteers today are seeking more than just the feel-good. We sincerely want to make an impact in the community and better the world around us. But volunteerism has changed. Many individuals seek volunteer opportunities for new reasons -- to expand their professional network, hone their skills and explore new opportunities. All in addition to making the world a better place.

So how can we, as nonprofits, do this? How can we really show our gratitude? Consider the following:

1. Really get to know the motives behind why that new volunteer is showing up at your door (or accepting a friend's invitation to get involved). Is he/she in the job market? Is he/she looking to build skills? Is he/she looking to get to know the community or your organization better? Does he/she want to make new friends or professional connections?

2. Have a more personal conversation. Make sure the volunteer really gets to know your organization and get to know him/her on a deeper level. Most volunteers are seeking that personal connection.

3. Create projects that help him/her to meet those goals.

At WomenOnCall, we focus specifically on short-term, high-impact projects that require approximately 10 hours of service or less. By scoping projects that have a finite start and end while also leveraging one's skills, volunteers can much more easily say, "Yes, I can do that!" And that's a great way for us as a sector to build a pipeline of talent. Getting people involved who may not have otherwise raised their hand or thought they could find the time. It gets a foot in the door and once that volunteer feels that their work was valued and made a difference, they will come back for more.

Though a thank you can go a long way, let's find a way to really show our appreciation for our volunteers this year. Recognition, acknowledgment and human connection take gratitude to another level and will fulfill what our volunteers are seeking.