Select Page

We know our volunteers deserve the thanks of our staff, but how do we do it?

volunteer-thanks-video-twenty-hatsJenna Jones had a problem.

The date and time of her annual volunteer appreciation event had changed: what was once a weeknight dinner affair was now a Saturday morning breakfast.

While a weekend breakfast might work well for volunteer schedules, it meant that fewer staff might be present. And if fewer staff were present, how would they thank the volunteers for their contributions?

Fortunately, Jenna, who is a CVA and Volunteer Coordinator for the Smithsonian Associates, had a solution.  She had seen another nonprofit create a video of staff thanking the volunteers. Why not create a thank you video for her own program?

Serendipity helped to move things along. Right around the time she started thinking about a video, Jenna happened to interview a prospective volunteer with video-making experience who agreed to take on the project.  Ten months later, the thank you video aired at the October, 2016 breakfast to rave reviews. Volunteers applauded. (Staff applauded, too, when they saw the video afterwards).


CVA Jenna Jones saves her thank yous for last in the volunteer appreciation video she created for Smithsonian Associates.

“One volunteer called me and my Director, sent an email, and a hand written note to tell me how much the video meant to her” Jenna mentioned with pride – that’s when when she knew the team had created something very special.

Creating a thank you video for volunteers is not that difficult. Jenna shared three practical tips for any volunteer program that wants to make one of their own.

 1.  Give yourself enough time to plan

Jenna and her videographer started discussing the video in the early months of 2016 and began planning in earnest in August – three months before the event. As a result, there was plenty of time coordinate with staff and allow taping and editing before the unveiling at the October 2016 breakfast.

2.  Leave off a date, time, or any specific event mentions

Even though the video was created for a volunteer appreciation breakfast, Jenna intentionally omitted any mention of the event. That way, the video became a timeless thank you piece with plenty of opportunities for future use.  For example, Jenna plans to use the video at the end of volunteer training to inspire new volunteers and let them know how the staff feels about their contributions.

And, perhaps most important of all…

3.  Speak from the heart

Jenna encouraged the staff to stay unscripted. Instead, she asked them to simply reflect on what they most appreciated in their volunteers and share it in their own way. Those instructions were interpreted in many different and creative ways – and that creativity is what makes the video so special.

When you watch this video, you will see that it’s very straightforward. Expressing gratitude towards volunteers does not require high production values or careful messaging.  If anything, your message is much more powerful when it comes straight from the heart. When we share our gratitude in this way, personally and authentically – we give our volunteers a gift, too. We affirm the incredible value of their contributions to our communities.

© 2020 Twenty Hats, P.O. Box 6005, Falls Church, VA 22040,, 703-967-3516