Book clubs, Thank you gifts, and Zoom ice breakers | Track It Forward

Book clubs, Thank you gifts, and Zoom ice breakers

Written by Melissa Davis

Recap for October 4th - October 17th

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Facebook community this week! 

Book Club

While many volunteers are motivated by the mission of an organization, it can still be beneficial to provide opportunities outside their normal role. Some volunteers might appreciate social events, professional development opportunities, and leadership roles. 

This week, our coordinators discussed their ideas for a volunteer book club to facilitate team building within the volunteer program. Depending on your organization, you might even focus the books on topics related to your mission to help volunteers better understand your programs. 

Comments from the group

  • “At my last job, we had a volunteer book group. We were a literacy organization that primarily served the ESOL population so we read a lot of books about other cultures. It was purely an opportunity for volunteers to socialize and engage outside of their normal volunteer work. We had about 300 active volunteers and about 30 of them were in the book group with about 12 attending regularly. Throughout the pandemic they really appreciated it continuing on Zoom and providing them with an opportunity to “see” other volunteers and catch up since none of them were coming to the office. All in all, I think it was a great success.”

  • “We had a volunteer book club at my last organization. We met quarterly and the people who attended the meeting got to choose the next quarter’s book. The books all related to our mission in some way. We had a small but very consistent group of volunteers who attended. During the summer we took a break from reading and watched a movie together, that meeting had the highest attendance. I had planned to expand the movie nights but then Covid….”

  • “Yes! I had just started one before the pandemic hit and then we lost our jobs. I'm now at a new job and am going to start one up here too! I had modeled it after one I'd seen at a volunteer program at a zoo that had a Conservation-themed book club.I sent a survey out to volunteers to see if there was any interest for a book club, and if so, if anyone was also interested in being a group leader to facilitate the discussions. I also asked if they had book suggestions.I then sent a survey to all those volunteers with the book choices, told them to pick 3, and then we were all set with our next 3 months of reading! Every book would have a different volunteer group leader to help facilitate the meetings and bring questions. I booked the rooms and sent meeting reminders.The meetings were free flowing and also had questions to keep the dialogue going. With the help of volunteer leaders, it's minimal staff time with a HUGE impact on community building and furthering your mission. Good luck!”

Check out all of the comments here!

Thank you gifts

While many organizations have annual recognition events, some may also include general thank you gifts during the year. Thank you gifts are a great opportunity to recognize volunteers for specific milestones, as well as those who stepped into a leadership role. As our coordinators discussed, the type of gift will likely depend on your typical volunteer and what they would appreciate the most. 

Comments from the group

  • “We do thank you cards and attach little charms that we found on Amazon. The charms are super inexpensive and become little collector items to mark milestones. For instance we are doing a trunk or treat in October and our volunteers are getting a card with a little pumpkin charm. For our volunteer appreciation they got a thank you card signed by staff with a little love charm.”

  • “I now have a stockpile of leftover volunteer gifts. We now use them as welcome or thank you gifts.”

Add your own thoughts here!

Zoom ice breakers

In many cases, meetings are still being held via Zoom instead of in person. For coordinators, this can be challenging for events like orientation when volunteers are new and don’t know each other yet. 

To set everyone at ease for the meeting, consider starting with a fun ice breaker. This helps everyone get to know each other before moving forward with the content of the meeting. 

Comments from the group

  • “Asking a fun question as people Arrive is nice. They can answer in the chat or on video. Favorite place to travel, what would you do with a million dollars, etc.”

  • “Two good questions that seem to get people talking....What was your first concert and what was your first job?”

  • “I like popcorn intros! Everyone turns their screen off and you make a statement… “I have a dog” and whoever identifies with the statement turns their video on… you can either have a list of statements ready or you can call on people to make a statement.”

  • “Polls are fun! We like doing topic-relevant trivia with fairly easy questions.”

Join the conversation here!