What’s In A Name?

Guest Expert Katie Davidson • Feb 17, 2017

A different way to appreciate your volunteers.

Have you ever thought about showing your appreciation for the work your volunteers do by formalizing their roles? This is a cost-free way organizations can express the importance of the volunteers who give of their time, talents, and knowledge. Formalizing their roles with titles, job descriptions, and regularly scheduled check-ins lets them know that you take their work seriously, and that it is important to your nonprofit.


To borrow the words of Shakespeare, a volunteer by any other name would feel as appreciated, right? Wrong. Volunteers with formalized titles know they are appreciated by the organizations they serve. The great thing about this token of appreciation is that it doesn’t cost a thing! 

I once wrote grants for a nonprofit that was heavily supported by volunteers. They added each volunteer’s photo and title to their website to show that they too were important members of the team. Needless to say, I felt like a valued part of the organization. I worked hard not just because I was passionate about the cause, but also because I knew they valued my work. It is a powerful gesture, but thankfully it’s easy to create titles. 

Does someone help brainstorm and research blog posts? Why not call them the “Social Media Research Assistant”? Do you have someone who helps stuff mailers? Meet your new “Communication Distribution Technician”! You can introduce your conference volunteer as your “Conference Logistics Coordinator.” If you don’t feel comfortable with a formal title, you can add “Volunteer” to the title to indicate their exact connection with your nonprofit. Regardless, a title immediately clarifies the role of the volunteer and speaks volumes of their value to the nonprofit.

Job Descriptions

Do you want focused and effective volunteers? Develop a job description! Internships and employment positions come with a list of activities and expectations, but for some reason, nonprofits often expect volunteers to find their own way. This can lead to confusion, miscommunication, and even burn out. Don’t let it! Establish clear goals and tasks that would most benefit the organization. You can personalize it based on each volunteer or create it based on your needs and then find someone to fill the role. With a clear vision, your volunteers will know how to focus their energy and time to best serve the nonprofit.


Recognition is key, and setting up scheduled check-ins with your volunteers ensures they are recognized for their time and commitment. Regularly scheduled conversations are common in employer-employee relationships by way of performance reviews, but the work of volunteers is also highly valuable and nonprofit professionals would be wise to invest in these relationships as well. While nonprofits often have strong volunteer onboarding programs, few have scheduled check-ins, and this can leave volunteers feeling forgotten and alone. Why leave your volunteers feeling abandoned? Designate someone in your organization to regularly check in with volunteers. Set up designated times when your volunteers receive recognition for all they have done. This also gives them time to ask questions to clarify their role. Giving organizational time to your volunteers beyond the onboarding process is another important way of saying, “Thank you. Your work is important.”

Showing volunteers your appreciation for what they are doing by giving their roles titles, job descriptions, and regularly scheduled check-ins lets your volunteers know that you see them as an integral part of your organization. Make it exciting! Tailor it to your organization’s voice, and make them feel like part of the team.

It’s fun, easy, and free!

Cindy Wagman Head Shot

About the author:  

Katie Davidson graduated from Indiana University with a Master of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management and International Development. She has enjoyed over a decade of work in the nonprofit sector in many capacities. When she is not writing, she loves spending time with her husband and three kids at their home in the Caribbean.