This Mistake Hurt My Relationship with Volunteers

I share my mistakes with the hope that you will not make them.

A few years ago I planned a gala fundraiser. I recruited volunteers to execute the event—covering every aspect of the evening. There were a lot of meetings and phone calls with the team, and thanks to them, the evening was successful.

Everything went as planned—except one thing. It was my fault. I had forgotten to fulfill one of my most important responsibilities.

I did not publicly thank my volunteers.

I acknowledged the keynote speaker and the photographer. I thanked the guests for coming, and I thanked those who gave generously. I even acknowledged the staff and board members. But I did not thank the people who spent countless hours planning and executing the event.

When the night ended, the volunteers stayed to help clean up and tally the contributions. By then, I’d realized my oversight and was embarrassed. I thanked them in that moment, but it wasn’t the same as acknowledging them in front of a room full of guests. The volunteers were noticeably disappointed. Three months passed before many of them returned to volunteer with the organization.

Since that night, I prepare for events by writing several reminders to thank the volunteers. I’ve become even more generous with public appreciation. This is one mistake I never want to repeat.

Question: When was the last time you thanked your volunteers?