As a PTO leader, one of your most important and challenging responsibilities is to recognize the good work of your volunteers. Rewarding hard-working volunteers helps to communicate that they are making a positive difference in the PTO, and by extension, in the lives of the students and school staff served by the organization.
Public recognition in your PTO newsletter or website
If your PTO has a newsletter or a website, you could highlight the successes of your volunteers in a space on those publications. Set up a “meet the PTO volunteer” section on either or both of those publications, and pick an outstanding volunteer to do a mini interview with in each weekly or monthly edition.
Recognizing volunteers in such a public way will help that volunteer feel greatly appreciated, and can help raise awareness of volunteer opportunities in your constituency, which may bring in even more volunteers.
Creating volunteer awards is a great way of recognizing specific contributions as part of a larger group. These awards can give volunteers something to work toward earning, while injecting a little fun into the PTO activities.
You could go with something as simple as a “volunteer of the week/month/year” award. If you want to make it more specific, you could create categories (“hardest worker”, “best communicator”, etc.) and hand out multiple awards at once. If you prefer to keep it more light-hearted, you could opt for humorous awards instead.
For a little added fun, you could also have a yearly awards ceremony where these honors are presented. For the cost of some pizza, soda, and a little decorating, you could host a fun event where each volunteer is recognized.
End-of-year volunteer party
A lot of the work done by volunteers is done remotely or out-of-sight of others. Why not get everyone together once a year to meet up and say ‘thank you’ in person?
A volunteer party can bring together PTO volunteers and leaders in a low-pressure, social setting. Set aside work and PTO responsibilities for a while as everyone relaxes and reconnects.
This type of gathering is relatively easy to arrange, and need not be expensive. You can do this in the school’s cafeteria or gym, or in someone’s home if space permits. Consider combining this with volunteer awards (from above) for even more fun.
There are lots of material ways to reward volunteers: gift certificates for coffee or dining, gift baskets, spa trips, and others can be popular. But if you’re going to invest in tangible reward items for volunteers, consider something they can’t get elsewhere: exclusive branded merchandise. There are hundreds of popular vendors from which you can order branded clothing, coffee mugs, notebooks, and myriad other unique items.
School- or PTO-branded merchandise is likely to be one of those items that a volunteer would keep for years. For recognizing a volunteer’s hard work, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
A simple ‘thank you’
Last and certainly not least is the simple ‘thank you’ note. A personal written note sent to a valuable volunteer can be one of the most valuable gestures you can offer, since it’s individually written from one person to another.
If you go this route, a hand-written note is the most unique and personal way of delivering these words of gratitude. If you opt to send your thank-you via email, make sure you copy others in the PTO or the school so they are aware of the volunteer’s contribution.
Rewarding your PTO volunteers
When considering how to reward the hard work of your PTO volunteers, remember that everyone is different, and you may need to pick several of these to ensure that each volunteer feels appreciated.
How ever you choose to recognize your volunteers, make sure that you are taking the time to help them feel appreciated. As we know, volunteering is often a thankless job, so these periodic thank-yous can make a big difference.