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Thank Your Volunteers this Holiday Season

Dec 8, 2015

Thank YouAs you make your gift list this holiday season, don’t forget to spread some cheer to your association’s Board members and volunteers. Even the simplest token of gratitude will make them feel appreciated—and encourage them to continue their service into the new year.

Much psychological research has been done on the power of giving thanks. In one particularly apt study, Francesca Gino and Adam Grant took as their subjects volunteers who were tasked with soliciting alumni donations via phone. The volunteers were split into two groups: one that was thanked by the director of annual giving in a pep talk and one that received no thanks. Over the next week, volunteers who received the message of gratitude made 50% more fundraising calls than those who did not.

The study concluded that volunteers who received thanks for their efforts experienced an increased sense of well-being, which prompted them to be more altruistic and engaged. According to Gino, “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.”

The connection to the world of associations should be abundantly clear: whether your volunteers are recruiting new members, spreading the word about upcoming events, or putting together a community group of interest, you need them to make those calls and continue their work. Research suggests that you can secure their dedication with a simple “thank you” this holiday season.

Yet association managers don’t only need to worry about the level of volunteer engagement; in many cases simply keeping volunteers can be a challenge. With full-time jobs and busy personal lives, volunteers can easily burn out and move on if they don’t feel that their time and effort is appreciated. This is all the more reason to make them feel valued.

Although it may sound too good to be true, sending a simple holiday card to your board and volunteers can easily translate into new members and increased engagement over the coming year. So make a steaming cup of hot cocoa, turn on your favorite holiday tunes, and put pen to paper. You will thank yourself later.

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