The question of the month, what are you doing, or what did you do, for National Volunteer Appreciation Week? Large events, small events, many words of appreciation or few words of appreciation, it’s hard to know, in my opinion, what is the “correct” thing to do. How do we ensure that every volunteer knows how much we appreciate them?
A few years ago my boss had our volunteer services team read a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. At first I was a little confused about why in the world she would ask us to read this book for work. BUT it didn’t take me very long to figure out the benefit of this book in my work, and also in my home.
I didn’t realize that every person feels loved/appreciated in a different way. Much to my surprise, not everyone is a quality time person. Some people have the love language of affirmation or receiving gifts, huh, seems strange to me! There are more love languages, five to be exact, that are identified by Chapman in his book.
As a volunteer coordinator I think that it is important to know a few things; first, not all people are like me, second all people are different from each other and third, it sometimes takes a long time and a lot of discussion to really know what the love language of a person is.
What, you may ask, is the point of talking about love languages and Volunteer Appreciation Week all in the same blog? Well, I think that they go hand in hand, and teach us a very important lesson. While Volunteer Appreciation week is one week out of our very busy volunteer year, it is just one week. How are we to make every volunteer know how much they are appreciated in one week? Is it possible?
Knowing about the five love languages and what makes people feel loved/appreciated helps me to know that no, as a volunteer coordinator I am not going to be able to make each volunteer know how much we appreciate them during Volunteer Appreciation week. I will still plan events and work to let as many people know how much we appreciate the work that they do at Lyngblomsten, but the work of appreciating volunteers is something that needs to happen every month, each week and even every day.
Because I know that there is a large population of people that feel loved/appreciated through words of affirmation and through acts of service, this year for volunteer appreciation we had “thank you” cards printed with our theme (Celebrating the Magic) and an open space for each supervisor to write a personal thank you. With the help of a great intern and Volgistics, we identified each volunteer and their supervisor(s). I hosted two “card writing” sessions, furnishing bagels and coffee, for the supervisors and had them come and write on their volunteers cards. The benefits of getting the supervisors together in this way were somewhat of a surprise to me. They shared stories about volunteers with each other, they asked me questions about how to “deal” with different volunteer situations and they were able to get tips about how to show appreciation to their volunteers.
Shelli Beck, Lead Volunteer Coordinator, Lyngblomsten