The Value of a Volunteer

by Kat Goodman

As a volunteer-driven organization, Kappa Kappa Gamma can’t “Kappa” without our volunteers. We want to retain our volunteers because of the positive impact they make on our membership and the Fraternity. Kappa has a strong volunteer management strategy, but we have noticed how important it is to have a recognition strategy as well. A recognition strategy creates a roadmap and identifies opportunities to invest in our volunteers beyond providing training to support them in their roles. While training is valuable for helping volunteers develop their skills and increase their knowledge, giving individual recognition for their efforts and how they keep Kappa moving forward, is important to us too.

Recognition is valuable because it:

  1. Acknowledges volunteers for their effort and progress toward our strategic priorities
  2. Helps volunteers feel a connection to the organization and may lead to them continuing their involvement
  3. Keeps volunteers engaged – if they enjoy their experience they may tell others to volunteer too!

To learn about the volunteer experience to be able to improve training, retention, and recognition efforts, the Alumnae Experience Department created the Volunteer Satisfaction Survey in 2022. From this, we learned that volunteers, overall, had a positive experience in their role and felt valued as Kappa volunteers. We saw that Kappa’s volunteers enjoyed the connection with the Fraternity and the relationships and friendships that come with it. Similarly, their reason for volunteering with Kappa is because of the connection to the organization and the opportunity for them to give back, mentor, and make a difference.

We heard that our volunteers wanted to be recognized in a number of ways from handwritten thank you cards, to words of gratitude, by receiving gift cards, and being formally recognized at events. Throughout Volunteer Appreciation Month every April, we historically host virtual appreciation events, mail small gifts to all volunteers, and provide collegians with resources on how to show appreciation to their local volunteers. But armed with this additional data from those who completed the survey, we began looking for ways to recognize volunteers year-round and expand our recognition strategy based on this feedback.

We took these responses to heart and developed a plan to regularly send messages of appreciation to our volunteers. Here are some ideas you can use to recognize and appreciate the volunteers or others with which you work.

  1. Specific volunteer stationery. We collaborated with our marketing and communications team to design five different cards that can be sent to our volunteers from celebrating important milestones to mourning loved ones. We want our volunteers to know Kappa is with them, always.
  2. Send birthday cards. At the beginning of each month we send a handwritten card to all of our international volunteers celebrating a birthday that month.
  3. Small packages for newly onboarded local volunteers. These packages also include a handwritten note with a business card outlining the “5 Keys to being a great volunteer.” We invested in swag items that can be sent in a small envelope as well, which includes cork coasters, stickers, magnets, Band-Aid dispensers, and luggage tags. We hope these small packages surprise and delight our newest volunteers and make them feel supported and excited to begin their new roles.
  4. Hoots and Salutes. We have a form on our website that any member can complete to recognize their favorite Kappa volunteer with a special shout-out for their hard work and dedication to our sisterhood. When a submission is received, we send a card and include a $5 Starbucks gift card. This peer-to-peer recognition can also be an effective way to boost morale.
  5. Host a postcard party. At HQ, we hosted a postcard party in the spring where staff members could write a short note to any of the volunteers they work with and thank them for their efforts. We wrote and mailed over 100 postcards to our volunteers within an hour.
  6. Host a (virtual) coffee chat. We host Kappacino events for volunteers during Volunteer Appreciation Month but also include prospective volunteers. We even provide a gift card to buy them coffee! Our volunteers fill our cups, so we want to be able to fill their cups, too.
  7. Be available for questions. New and even seasoned volunteers will have questions about their roles. We started virtual office hours this fall as a way to be available to volunteers to answer questions and provide support.

From our Volunteer Satisfaction Survey data, this approach appears to be working. In response to the question “What do you enjoy about volunteering with Kappa,” we have received responses including:

“I enjoy the mentorship role and the relationships I have formed with the active members. I also joined Kappa late in my college days so I feel like I am forming the connection to kappa as an alumni that I didn’t get in my short active membership.”

“I enjoy the friendships with teammates and those I mentor. Being part of this team has enriched my life in so many ways. I am connected to something bigger than myself and am giving back to make Kappa better for future sisters.”

“I feel as though I am repaying all the good that Kappa has brought into my life.”

We hope you feel inspired to find new ways to recognize and appreciate your volunteers. We have seen that small actions can have a large impact on the retention of our volunteers and how valued they feel by the Fraternity.

About the author:

Kat Goodman

Kat Goodman is the Alumna Leadership Coordinator for Kappa Kappa Gamma supporting the recruitment, training, and retention of Kappa’s volunteers. Kat is a graduate of Bowling Green State University where she joined Sigma Kappa. Following graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps member in Austin, TX. Kat earned her Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Miami University. She has extensive experience working in higher education with roles at Texas Christian University, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and Rutgers University working in leadership development, fraternity and sorority life, and career exploration and development. Most recently, Kat worked at Jewish Family Services as a Volunteer Coordinator. Kat resides in Somerville, NJ with her husband, 2-year-old daughter, and dog, Ellie. Outside of work, Kat enjoys volunteering, traveling, reading, and taking family walks around her town.

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