Best Practices

5 Ways to Show Appreciation to Alumni Volunteers

5 Ways to Show Appreciation to Alumni Volunteers




March 31, 2022

Last modified: 

As a higher education fundraising professional or alumni volunteer coordinator, you know how important your alumni are to the success of your fundraising and volunteer efforts. Your alumni support your institution by contributing donations as well as volunteering to support your charitable events. They deserve recognition for the hard work they put in to support your institution.

Showing appreciation to alumni volunteers helps boost their engagement in your programs and initiatives, making them feel like their efforts are valued. If you’re looking for guidance when deciding how to show gratitude to your alumni volunteers, these five ideas can help get you started: 

  1. Send a thoughtful, personalized thank-you note.
  2. Host an appreciation event.
  3. Provide additional ways to get involved.
  4. Offer them a nostalgic gift.
  5. Ask for their feedback.


These ideas just scrape the surface of the volunteer appreciation strategies you might choose to adopt. But they offer a great starting point if you’re creating your volunteer appreciation approach from scratch. 

1. Send a thoughtful, personalized thank-you note

Your volunteers donate many hours of their time and skills to support your institution, and in return, you can send them a personalized thank-you note as a form of appreciation. You can send a letter straight from your volunteer coordinator or even handwritten cards from current students. As a volunteer, nothing feels better than words of gratitude coming from those they served or the program leaders.

Your volunteer management system can help you keep track of volunteers’ personal information to reference in your communications with them. Use your software platform to keep track of volunteers’ preferred names, volunteer history, graduation year, and donation history. You can use all of these details to personalize your thank-you messages. You can also personalize your thank-you note by highlighting one of their major accomplishments and how much of an impact it brought to your institution!

For instance, perhaps a certain volunteer won a state championship as a student-athlete while attending your institution. In your volunteer appreciation letter, you can include a shout-out to that amazing accomplishment while thanking the alum for their continued support and involvement. 

2. Host an appreciation event

Consider planning an appreciation event as a fun way to get together and show appreciation to your alumni. This can be a great opportunity to allow all your alumni volunteers to connect and get to know one another outside of their volunteer hours! Invite them to events such as:

  • A virtual or in-person happy hour - Gather your volunteers together to enjoy their favorite beverage and play some fun interactive games. This is a great way to help your alumni get to know one another. 
  • An end-of-year appreciation gala - You can host an appreciation gala with food and entertainment and hand out awards to your most engaged or active alumni volunteers.
  • A fun activity - Plan a team lunch or dinner or even something interactive like bowling for everyone to have fun and celebrate their accomplishments.

These ideas help create a good experience for your volunteers, encouraging them to stay involved with your future volunteering or fundraising opportunities. 

3. Provide additional ways to get involved

You don’t want your volunteers to miss out on any new upcoming opportunities! Keep your alumni involved by highlighting upcoming events and opportunities on your calendar. These opportunities might include:

  • Networking events: These opportunities connect volunteers with fellow alumni and allow them to make personal and professional connections. This also helps your volunteers gain career knowledge from those who are more experienced.
  • Mentorship programs: This is a great way for your volunteers to connect with students in the same field and talk about their interests, experiences, and gain other insights that may help them succeed in their classes or career path.
  • Career development events: Consider planning job fairs or resume workshops that help your alumni grow their current skill set and learn how to market themselves effectively.
  • Fundraising opportunities: These might include direct donations or peer-to-peer fundraisers where alumni solicit donations from their family members and friends. Alumni are effective peer-to-peer fundraisers because they can speak directly to how they were positively impacted by your university.  

Be sure to highlight these opportunities on your alumni website so volunteers can view them at any time. 

4. Offer them a nostalgic gift

Think of a thank-you gift that will remind your volunteers of their time spent attending your university. For example, you can offer merchandise that’s branded to your university, such as a t-shirt, coffee mug, or framed wall art. These can be branded with your university’s colors and logo. You can also offer tickets to a university sporting event, such as a basketball or soccer game.

Make things exciting by asking your alumni to participate in t-shirt designing contests and send out a poll to decide on the winning design! This is a fun way to get your volunteers engaged, and whenever they wear their t-shirts, they will be reminded of their fun experience.

These volunteer gifts will surely make your volunteers feel special and will strengthen their bonds with your institution. Remember to get creative and make your gift stand out from any other generic gift.

5. Ask for their feedback

One of the most important aspects of volunteer engagement is making volunteers feel like their opinions are valued. Ask what they enjoyed most and least about the volunteer opportunity and any suggestions they have to improve the volunteer experience in the future. 

Volunteer surveys are one of the best ways to determine how effective your volunteer program was and whether or not your volunteers were satisfied with their experience. Ensure you ask the right questions to receive the best feedback possible. This includes questions about whether they felt the volunteer experience truly made a difference or whether they would recommend your program to fellow alumni. 

Remember to leave a section at the end of your survey to allow your alumni to leave any additional comments to help you understand what to improve for next time.

Since your volunteers are dedicated and passionate about volunteering with you, ensuring they have a positive experience is crucial! This shows your volunteers that you care about their experience and also helps you enhance your future volunteers’ experience.

Advancement playbook

Now that you’ve learned several ways to show appreciation to alumni volunteers, it’s time to start planning accordingly and put your ideas into action! Showing gratitude to your volunteers comes with many benefits, helping you increase your university’s volunteer program retention. Remember to personalize your appreciation gifts to make them special and stand out, and choose your gifts according to the preferences of your volunteers. Good luck!

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