Small gestures make for big returns

Christmas is such a two-headed beast for most of us – equal parts stress and joy, a frenetic loop of decorating, shopping, wrapping, and cooking to prep for the big day where hopefully it all comes together and we can finally enjoy each others’ company. There’s so much to do, and it’s madness to try to do it all on your own.

In my experience you can’t make a good Christmas without a good team, which is why it seems to me that Christmas is a lot like volunteer management. The way Christmas works is the way all events work. You plan the day > you recruit your team > you lead and direct them, engage and inspire > you teach them what they need to know so they can do a great job > and finally you thank them.

This last stage – so often forgotten – feeds straight back into the recruitment stage for next time. Thanking volunteers, expressing gratitude and making them feel appreciated is what ensures they will volunteer again. Who wants to volunteer for something that makes them feel invisible?

Simple moments of recognition are crucial to the success of the relationship between the organiser and the team. That’s what Christmas is about – the relationships between friends and family, taking the time to notice each other and be grateful for having those people in our lives. And that’s what the volunteer movement is about too. The research is clear that an overwhelming number of  people who volunteer do so to experience community and connection. This Christmas I’m hoping we will all honour that motivation by expressing our thanks to everyone on our teams. Because ‘thank you’ always feels good, whether you are receiving or giving.

So before you tidy your desk and head off to your family celebrations, how about sending an email to thank the volunteers who helped you in 2014? It’s a small gesture but it goes a long way towards keeping your volunteers happy, so they’ll step up for you again next year. Letting people know you saw their work and that you really valued it – that’s the greatest gift you can give.

We are wishing a smooth and merry Christmas to you and yours.