Volunteer Appreciation Ideas Exchanged in Atlanta

One of the challenges in managing a large group of volunteers is to express the organization's appreciation for their service.

At the Annual Conference in Atlanta earlier this month, several appreciation ideas were presented in a session devoted to volunteer management issues. Tony Medina, volunteer manager at Travelers Aid Chicago, noted that it is important to remember that not every event will attract the interests of every volunteer. Of their 155 volunteers, Medina said the staff is happy if 45 attend. The target to get at least 30.

Chicago tries to offer an event a month - either a field trip or an airport panel presentation. The staff now offers events at different times and different days to get different faces showing up.

Fields trips have included the Chicago Art Institute, the nearby Fashion Outlook Mall and a tarmac tour.

"We get a lot of tourist questions," Medina said, "so it is important we offer field trips to these locations so the volunteers are more knowledgeable."

It also important to build and maintain relationships with those nearby tourist destinations.

Travelers Aid Dulles noted that it has offered tours of the nearby regional air traffic control facility and the NTSB labs.

Chicago spends $40,000 to $50,000 a year on volunteer appreciation and recruiting projects. The budget includes about $20 per volunteer for Travelers Aid branded swag.

The airport ambassador program at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which is not part of the Travelers Aid network, distributes $20,000 to $30,000 in gifts from airport vendors to the volunteers. It is in the process of revamping its appreciation/incentive program to include free airline travel to those volunteers providing at least 300 hours of service a year.