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Reward Your Volunteers

April 2005
By: Mark Hiehle
Volunteers are the life of any pregnancy center. The impact and effectiveness of nearly every center would be drastically reduced if there were no volunteers. Honoring and thanking volunteers should always be a high priority.

Operating on a limited budget, how can a center afford to show appreciation? Many centers choose a particular time of the year in which to show their appreciation. They may use a Christmas party, a summer picnic, or an autumn outing to thank volunteers. There are many ways to show appreciation. Here is a simple but effective way to thank your volunteers plus get the community involved.

For the past three years I have contacted local restaurants and businesses asking them to donate gift certificates that would be presented to our volunteers. We contacted restaurants, such as Chili's, Longhorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Rafferty's, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, and others. We did the same with other local businesses, such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Food Lion, hair salons, the YMCA, auto parts stores, video rental stores, and even therapeutic massage therapists. In July, as a mid-year thank-you, we presented over $1,500 worth of free gift certificates to our volunteers. The certificates were a wonderful blessing to the volunteers. The program also provided our center with valuable publicity throughout the community.

How would you go about contacting your local businesses and restaurants? Simply make a call to the restaurant or business and ask for the name of the owner or manager. Get the correct spelling and mailing address. If the employee asks you why, just say that you want to send the owner/manager a letter. Personalize the request letter with the appropriate information and mail it. Follow up with a phone call about four days later. If you wait longer, the letter likely will be either lost or forgotten.

Use your imagination as to what businesses to contact. Ask yourself: "What would be a blessing to me?" How much time and effort does it take to set up these gift certificates? Not much. Making two phone calls, personalizing a letter, and picking up the certificates are all it takes.

Here is a sample letter to use with a restaurant:

Dear _______ (first name of restaurant owner/manager),

Please let me introduce myself. My name is ________________, and I am the Executive Director of the ___________ Center here in __________ (town). The ___________ is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) abortion-alternative ministry. We see an average of _____ (number) clients per year. Our ministry is funded totally by generous donations from concerned individuals, churches, and businesses. We operate with a small staff, so the bulk of the work is handled by volunteers. The reason I am writing is to ask if you could help us honor our volunteers for the hours of time that they donate to help change and improve the lives of needy women here in __________ (town).

As a way of saying thank you to the volunteers for all that they do, it would be an honor if we could present to them a gift certificate from _________ (name of restaurant). This would be a wonderful way to show how much their community service is appreciated. With a gift certificate from your restaurant to cover the volunteer's meal, our volunteer can have her family join her, and together they can enjoy a delicious meal out.

Our volunteers meet with young women at a very stressful time in their lives. Most of the women come to the center to obtain free pregnancy tests. For many, an unplanned pregnancy is seen as a crisis for which an abortion seems the simplest solution. Our volunteers counsel our clients and present all the available options and the risks of each. The volunteers listen, comfort, and help these clients work through the many issues that they face. It is a very demanding and emotional job. A gift certificate from ___________ (name of restaurant) would serve as a token of the community's appreciation and would be a tremendous blessing to them.

Again, if you would help us honor one or more of these volunteers with a gift certificate, we would be so grateful. I will be contacting you shortly in case you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

With deep appreciation,
(Your name)
Executive Director

Remember, use your imagination. Your volunteers work without monetary reward. Surprise each of them with a gift certificate, and you will give them what they want: your heartfelt thanks.

Mark Hiehle is Director of Hope Pregnancy Center, Clarksville, TN 37040. He can be reached at mark@highcalling.com.

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