15 Virtual Appreciation Ideas: How to Make Your Members Feel More Appreciated
Since the pandemic began, many nonprofits have struggled to stay afloat. With strict social distancing restrictions in force for months on end, nonprofits have had to rely on the digital sphere for almost everything. The shift to virtual has not been an easy one, especially when it comes to fundraising and member management. A good membership management software can make many aspects of member management and retention more manageable, from calendaring to communication. But when folks work from home most of the time, they also have to contend with issues like distracting roommates and family members, miscommunications over chat and email or the feelings of isolation that come with spending time apart.
Leaders should recognize the many hurdles that their members have faced in these times. Not only is recognition and appreciation good for your members’ well-being, but it’s also good for your organization.
If you’ve been struggling to find ways to show your members that you appreciate them, we have 15 member and employee appreciation ideas that don’t break the bank or feel like a chore.
Why Member Recognition Matters
Before everything, let’s talk about the importance of establishing a culture of recognition in your organization.
It improves members’ happiness and productivity
It’s pretty simple at its core: having your contributions recognized by other members and higher-ups makes you feel good. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, making you feel like your efforts are paying off.
According to Forbes, employee recognition and employees who are appreciated for their efforts – especially those who get to see how much of an impact they make in an organization – “feel good about what they do and take those feelings home with them.”
And while keeping your members and volunteers happy is an achievement in and of itself, it also comes with a wonderful bonus: happy members are also more engaged and more productive!
It builds trust and harmony among members and your board
The same Forbes article states that trust is a “valuable commodity.” When members can see their efforts acknowledged and commended, they develop a connection not only to the leaders of the group, but also to the organization as a whole. They can feel that the organization is a place where they will be valued and respected. Nonprofit board members can spend a lot of personal time on the organization’s needs; seeing their work appreciated helps them want to continue serving.
It improves member retention
Most nonprofit members and volunteers devote their time to an organization because they believe in the cause or want to network. But still, no matter how selfless one’s reason is for volunteering, a person wouldn’t stay if they don’t feel valued.
It inspires other members to participate
Appreciating your members can lead to better engagement as well. When people are happy with their experience they’re more likely to introduce your organization to others who could be potential members or volunteers. If you’re looking for examples of this in your organization, it can look like a board member who brings friends or colleagues to your fundraising events or invites a contact to speak at one of your educational outreach events.
15 Ways to Show Your Members That You Appreciate Them
So, now you know why member appreciation is essential in any successful organization. Here we recommend 15 virtual appreciation ideas that your members might enjoy.
Note: We focus on virtual efforts here because guidelines on face-to-face meetings and large gatherings remain inconsistent and up in the air – better to be safe for now!
1. Deliver care packages to remote volunteers
Not everyone in the remote workforce will have a place to peacefully and comfortably work at home. If you haven’t already, make a checklist of equipment and supplies you can send to your most dedicated and regular volunteers to make their remote volunteer work a little easier. Think webcams and headsets, lumbar support pillows, stationery or branded notepads, desk organizers, and the like. This kind of generosity is best reserved for those who have demonstrated a significant weekly commitment to your nonprofit.
2. Send members flowers or plants
House plants aren’t just lovely to look at – they can be good for your health, too. Aside from providing fresh and clean air, indoor plants may boost concentration and productivity. They can also be excellent stress relievers. According to studies, spending time in nature can make people feel calmer, more relaxed, and better mood. This kind of gift is appropriate for board members after they have achieved a special task such as rewriting your bylaws, chairing an event or undertaking a special project.
3. Send them messages of appreciation
Whether via email or snail mail, a sincere, heartfelt personal letter can make a member or volunteer feel appreciated. It doesn’t even have to be a lengthy and dramatic novel. Keep it short and sweet. The mere fact that someone is taking the time to send out a personalized letter should be enough to make a member’s day.
4. Give member perks
Want to incentivize member loyalty? There are many little rewards you can offer to your best members, including:
- Advanced notifications and reservations for special events
- Discounts for members who renew subscriptions or choose annual versus monthly fees
- Exclusive access to content like newsletters, white papers or exclusive research reports
- Discounted or free attendance to talks and special events for participants of your monthly giving program
5. Offer takeout gift cards, discounts at local restaurants and grocery stores
Volunteering and organizing in the middle of a pandemic can be physically and emotionally draining – so much so that some people find it challenging to cook meals every day. Help your most active and hardworking members by offering gift cards for takeout or delivery from local restaurants. This way, you don’t just make dinner time less stressful for your volunteers; you also give restaurants in your community more customers.
6. Start a virtual Wall of Fame
There are many ways to go about this, and you can be as creative as you can:
- Set up a new page on your website to upload photos and a short biography of your featured members.
- Post a photo and caption in your organization’s members-only group.
- Run a blog post series on featured members.
- Include a spot in your regular newsletter for a member highlight or shout out. Some organizations include mentions of promotions and job moves as a part of their newsletter.
- Create a “Humans of New York”-style series on social media where you interview some of your most integral and dedicated members. With their permission, tag them in the post you make about them. This way members get to enjoy public recognition all over their social media platforms where their friends and family can see as well.
7. Ask for member testimonials
Some members join organizations — especially trade and professional associations — for networking reasons. The same applies to chamber of commerce membership. Give your most active members an opportunity to put their face in front of fellow members by asking them to write or film a testimonial you can use on your website, social media and promotional materials. Members who are featured in this way tend to get professionally rewarded for becoming more known to fellow members. Those rewards may come in the form of job leads, sales or new vendor connections.
For written testimonials, you can include a headshot or a photo of the member at their business along with the text. For a video testimonial, tell them it doesn’t need fancy production values. Something recorded briefly with their phone at home or their business is just fine!
8. Send birthday greetings
Just like a sincere thank-you letter, a personalized birthday greeting can make a member feel seen and valued even among a sea of other people. This could be in the form of a card you send. Or if your member is active on social media you can simply do a birthday post, story or message on their favorite platform. Look through your photo archives to find a flattering picture of your member at one of your events to make the birthday wishes feel even more personal.
9. Host a virtual party
Just because people can’t get together in big groups just yet, it doesn’t mean that parties are entirely off the table. There are many ways to host a fun online bash – you just have to learn how to get creative! It can be cost-free or something you invest in.
If you’re going all out, you might send electronic invites, get everyone to dress up, prepare a collaborative playlist and send food and drinks to everyone invited. Or try any of the following:
- Virtual bingo night: If you can afford small prizes, you can host a virtual bingo night. It’s a simple game that doesn’t require too much equipment or tech to get going. Plus, it’s just good clean fun!
- Online multiplayer games: Social multiplayer party games have been around for some time now. These games can be played remotely across various platforms so that anyone can join in the fun. Some great examples include the Jackbox games and Among Us.
- Zoom speakathon: A speakathon is a night where participants can pick any topic they want to discuss, prepare a presentation, and showcase it to a group of willing listeners. It’s an excellent way to get members to open up about what really interests them, and it introduces participants to topics and hobbies that may be completely new or foreign to them.
- Virtual cook-off: The pandemic has unleashed the inner cook or baker in many of us, so why not put those new skills to the test in a virtual cook-off. There are many ways to go about this – you can ask your members’ housemates to judge the food or create a food exchange program so people can taste each others’ creations.
- Wellness day: If things have been particularly tense for you or your board members lately, perhaps it’s time for some at-home R&R. You can invite a guest teacher to get everyone engaged in a home practice. You can also open up the floor to a judgment-free “check-in” session where people can pour their hearts out if they need to.
10. Record a Thank You video
If you want to acknowledge a handful of members for exemplary contributions, you can ask other members and leaders to record short video messages for them.
Ask them to talk about things they are thankful for, achievements that shouldn’t go unnoticed or even short anecdotes about working with the people you want to thank. Then find someone on your team who can put all the clips together on iMovie or Premiere. Finally, you can send the video through email or post it on your video channel, social media and your website.
11. Host an appreciation gala
If you want to give thanks to all your members and volunteers for sticking it out through a tough year, a virtual gala could be a great way to celebrate. And even if you’re celebrating virtually, encourage everyone to dress up – it makes the occasion feel even more special.
There are a million and one ways to host virtual events. Note that Zoom fatigue is real, though, so you’ll want to give members some compelling reasons to participate. Here are just a few ideas:
- Invite guest speakers: Get people who will inspire and excite your members, like local celebrities or influential people in your field.
- Involve food + learning: Invite a prominent local chef or restauranteur provide an online cooking class. Send out the list of ingredients in advance so members can shop for the items. For an luxury experience, shop for them and have them pick up the ingredients at your office or have them delivered.
- Book musical guests: Bands and DJs can fill in slots in your program and give people a break from socializing over Zoom.
- Give out awards: What better way to express your appreciation than to award someone for all their hard work? Create a range of categories, and add some cute and funny awards too to make things interesting.
- Send a gala package: Bring the gala experience to your members with a special gala package. This can include a fancy feast, drinks and a token or a giveaway.
12. Host an outdoor headshot photoshoot session
Members of professional groups, chambers of commerce and trade associations will often need to have a professional headshot. For many people, it has been a while since they have updated their headshot. Hire a photographer for a day and set up time slots that members can sign up for online. Make room in the schedule in between each person so that people aren’t forced into gathering. They’ll need to do their grooming at home to avoid spending more time in the presence of others. You can hold the shoot outside and with social distance to keep everyone safe. Work with the photographer in advance to find a nice, neutral background such as a limestone wall for the setting. They’ll need to look at where the sun and shade will be to avoid issues. It’s probably a good idea to set a rain date just in case. Alternately, if restrictions are lower, you can have members go to the photographer’s studio one at a time.
Members will appreciate the convenience and price. You can make it a free opportunity by paying for the whole thing or negotiate a reduced rate. The photographer can also charge members directly for extra things some might want such as shoots in extra outfits and touching up photos.
As many nonprofits also like to showcase their board member photos and bios on the membership website, you can use this event to collect those photos. In addition, you could offer to upload the members’ photos to your online member directory for them after the shoot. If this proves to be a popular event, you could hold it annually or even more often.
13. Celebrate member achievements in your newsletter or blog
You can celebrate members’ milestones and achievements by including them in your regular newsletter or e-newsletter. Unlike blog posts, which may sometimes go unnoticed by folks who don’t regularly check the blog section, newsletters get sent straight into subscribers’ mailboxes.
14. Name an event, scholarship, special fund or award after them
These types of high honors should only go to your longest-serving or most generous members. It is a meaningful and lasting recognition of what they did for your group.
15. Offer online learning courses
Remote working can be difficult for many people, especially those who thrive on mentorship and feedback. Some organizations are getting creative and are creating an event series where members are teaching fellow members or a larger audience. Note that MembershipWorks allows you to set up a member-generated events calendar where members themselves can post events. You can choose to approve these events before they are officially added to your calendar. Members who are presenters can benefit from increased exposure that could lead to sales for their business.
The Bottom Line
Member appreciation reaps a lot of benefits, both for your members and your organization. For one, it makes members feel happier and, in turn, can increase morale and productivity. Secondly, it builds trust and improves relationships between members and organization leaders. And all this leads to better member retention.
We hope these ideas have helped you learn how you can better recognize and appreciate your members. If you can implement just one or two of our suggestions, your members will feel more valued and engaged with your organization as a whole. The key is to be sincere, listen to their wants and needs, and be consistent!
For more advice on member engagement and retention, stay tuned to our blog. And if you need help managing your members remotely, consider MembershipWorks’ web-based member management software.