From Clean-Up Crews to Trailblazers: Recognizing Volunteers

By Tim Badolato | Posted on July 26, 2023

Volunteer Recognition blog 410

Volunteers contribute a lot towards park and recreation agencies, such as by helping out during summer camps, mentoring students and even teaching community classes. And they often do these things for little to no compensation.

To show your volunteers that you value the work they do, consider using these five volunteer recognition ideas:

  1. Thank your volunteers.

  2. Host volunteer appreciation events.

  3. Give gifts.

  4. Shoutout exceptional volunteers.

  5. Provide training opportunities.

Eager volunteers who are willing to help out your park and recreation agency can be invaluable for your programs and activities. This makes volunteer recruitment crucial — and part of a great volunteer recruitment strategy is showing them you appreciate and value your current volunteers. Let’s dive into volunteer recognition techniques!

1. Thank your volunteers.

When it comes to recognizing and appreciating your volunteers, sometimes a simple “thank you” can mean a lot to the people who are using their valuable time to help your park and recreation agency. You can thank volunteers using the following methods:

  • Letters

  • Texts

  • Emails

  • eCards

  • Videos

When thanking your volunteers, Fundraising Letters recommends that you detail the impact that they have made. For example, if your park and recreation agency just hosted a park clean-up event, you could inform volunteers of the total weight of the trash they cleaned up. This shows volunteers that you see and appreciate the effort they’re making.

2. Host volunteer appreciation events.

As volunteers make many of your events possible, a natural appreciation strategy is hosting an event that recognizes your volunteers! These events don’t need to break the budget, and they can be as simple as a picnic lunch or happy hour. Keep in mind that your main goal is to recognize your volunteers, so make sure that your staff is running the event so volunteer attendees can focus on having a great time.

Consider relating the appreciation event to what volunteers have recently helped out with, such as hosting a bonfire night for volunteers who helped run your summer camp program.

3. Give gifts.

Presenting a volunteer with a little gift is a sure way to recognize them and make them feel appreciated. Ideally, your gift should fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Gifts branded to your park or agency.

  • Gifts related to your agency.

  • Gifts that your volunteers would enjoy.

eCardWidget suggests giving your volunteers gifts such as t-shirts, water bottles, lunch bags and gift cards. Even if the gift is on the smaller side, it will show your volunteers that you appreciate them. This creates a positive impression on your volunteers, making it more likely that they’ll offer their time and effort to help your agency again in the future.

4. Shoutout exceptional volunteers.

If you have a few volunteers that have contributed greatly to your park and recreation agency’s programs or have performed exceptionally, shout them out to the rest of your community. You can do this on:

  • Social media

  • Newsletters

  • Your website

  • A dedicated volunteer recognition wall

Additionally, create a culture of appreciation by promoting peer-to-peer recognition. Encourage volunteers to uplift one another by recognizing the work they all do. Peer-to-peer appreciation can make everyone’s experience more positive, leading to increased volunteer retention rates.

5. Provide training opportunities.

Another valuable way to show your volunteers that you recognize their contributions is by offering them training opportunities. These will teach your volunteers skills that they can use outside of their time helping your organization, and give them knowledge that they may not otherwise have gained. 

For example, you could offer training on mental health awareness. Your volunteers can then apply these skills to your programs and in their own everyday lives. Offering training like this shows volunteers that you are invested in their success, increases their efficacy for your programs, and improves their satisfaction with their volunteering experience.

Park and recreation initiatives help local communities in a variety of ways, which means it’s crucial for agencies to attract and retain volunteers to help their programs. That’s why volunteer recognition is so important, as it can be a big reason why individuals choose to continue supporting your agency. 

We’ve given you five ideas for volunteer recognition, but you can also survey your volunteers on what type of recognition they would find most meaningful. What do you think? What are your favorite volunteer recognition tactics?

Tim Badolato is the CEO of, an innovative platform for digital employee recognition, donor acknowledgment, business marketing, and nonprofit marketing.