Brown Owl Blending in (camouflage) with Brown Tree

Hidden In Plain Sight

Nicole R. Smith
4 min readFeb 27, 2024

National Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 21st — April 27th. Volunteers are EVERYWHERE, yet often unseen. I challenge you to be on the lookout for volunteers in the upcoming weeks. There are everywhere, the hospital, the sports field, even your kindly neighbor cutting the grass for free.

As you start to ponder ways to recognize your volunteers this year, start first by familiarizing yourself with the 5 Languages of Appreciation. After all, you don’t want your appreciation efforts to go to waste!

Now that we are clear on the different ways to show appreciation, you may be asking “How do I thank a volunteer with little to no budget?” Well, don’t let a tight budget dampen your efforts! Often a simple and sincere “Thank You” in a unique manner can go a really long way.

Have you considered leadership? Leadership as recognition has a low cost but high value. Showing your most loyal and trusted volunteers that you trust them to lead others in your organization could be, dare I say, one of the highest honors and forms of recognition. Here are a few ways leadership can be used as recognition ideas:

Volunteer Advisory Teams

Volunteer to Volunteer Peer Mentors

Legacy Volunteers

Volunteer Trainers

Group Leaders

Additionally, there are many creative and/or low cost ways to make this celebration meaningful. Actually my affirmation journal for volunteers was sparked by the need to get something low cost to my volunteers during the pandemic. You never know where or when inspiration can strike. Consider these ideas!

Get a group together and make a video

Volunteer service hours / years pins

Gift Cards

Handwritten notes

Volunteer Appreciation Potluck or Picnic

Have staff do a dance flash mob

Bulk trinkets from amazon Here is an example of one.

Sign a group e-card and have it delivered to volunteer inboxes

Invite the CEO to speak to your volunteers at the next Zoom or in person Volunteer Gathering

Compose a poem and feature it in the newsletter

Have those whom you provide services to write thank you notes to the volunteers or send video shout outs

Show them the impact they are having on the organization and in the community

Nominate them for the President’s Volunteer Service Awards

Nominate them for a Daily Point of Light award

Perhaps a phone call with a verbal and special thank you directly from you as the leader of volunteers, or a team of staff callers to reach out to the team to say Thank You.

Maybe a cooking class, cocktail making class or even bingo……all either in person or virtual!

A certificate created on CANVA

Most people who volunteer, formally or informally, don’t do it for the recognition, they do it simply because it is the right thing to do; a way to give back because they understand that as we give of ourselves it strenghthens our communities. #UBUNTU

That is exactly the reason why we should acknowledge and recognize them (just make sure it isn’t publicly if they prefer the behind the scences and vice — versa).

From the person handing out water at your stair climb fundraiser to the person handing out your packet pick up at 5:30am on the morning of your 5k race, to the person leading the sign-laguage class at your church; thank them for what they do and how they make our community great! After all, it will keep them coming back.

Volunteering makes the world a better place both for those who engage in the act of volunteering as well those who are the recipients of the volunteers thoughtfulness. This volunteer appreciation week, let’s make sure they know they are “seen” “heard” and APPRECIATED!

Nicole (@nicolersmithnet) is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, dancer, motivational speaker and published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Affirmations Journal Series. She attended Oral Roberts University on a Division I full-ride track scholarship. After graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization. Her experience in sports and entertainment, radio, TV and the performing arts has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston and Miami markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000. She received the Emerging Leaders ALIVE Impact Award, was listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You” , and was selected as one of Legacy Miami’s MOST PROMINENT AND INFLUENTIAL BLACK WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OF 2019. She sits on the Board of the Association of Leaders In Volunteer Management and Ageless Chic Magazine.



Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.