Express Gratitude for your Non-Profit Employees

Nonprofit workers are crucial, so is our gratitude

The pandemic put everyone through the ringer and has definitively and repeatedly tested my limits. It has also brought people together and opened my eyes to the amazing work people do for each other, the benefit of their communities, and us all. Most notably, volunteers and nonprofit employees have worked tirelessly to revive, build and sustain communities around the globe. Nonprofits are vital to our society, economy and the people they serve. In my mind, an overwhelming sense of gratitude is the only way to repay these organizations for all they do. Unfortunately, the expression of gratitude through meaningful gifts for staff and volunteers lacks any lasting impact. There is a belief that any gift whether it be $500 or $5 will suffice as a token of gratitude. While this may be true for a highly personalized item gifted between close friends, it’s challenging for a low budget, high quantity item to convey the same sense of appreciation. Due to the low budget nature of nonprofits, the budget for a corporate gift is often on the lower end of the scale jeopardizing the vital gratitude token that keeps these organizations running to begin with. 

Nonprofits are an integral part of communities around the nation. I understand those who work at non-profits often take low wages and work weekends to fulfill the mission of the organization. My sister moved across the country for one and I sit on the board of another. These non-profit volunteers and employees are selfless beyond selflessness and should be properly thanked. Skimping on corporate gifts, especially for nonprofits, does not suffice the investments and sacrifices the staff makes to be there. 

Investing in your employees leads to one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) and generates a multitude of opportunities for employees. Disregarding this fact and skimping on employee gifts can lead to high turnover rates and low employee satisfaction. Of the thousands of products I test and blog about, affordable water bottles have been a top runner for frustrating SWAG.

Corporate gifts can be so much more than a $5 water bottle. 

The only reason I am sampling this water bottle is because a non-profit came to me last year and asked for help finding staff gifts. However, the board would not approve of anything more than $5.50 a person. While I have dozens of products that would fit into a reasonable price range and show true gratitude for the work staff puts in, the demand for the $5 water bottle meant that the project was not the right fit for Coolperx.

70% of employees are not happy with their organization’s investment in them.

A little effort and care goes a long way and it shows. Investing in your employees is one of the highest ROI's a company can receive. A Deloitte global research study measured how employee opportunity demands and elicits agency throughout the company, in turn maximizing value for both organizations and individuals. The Deloitte study found that 70% of employees are not happy or have neutral feelings with their organization’s investment in improving their skills.[1] Human capital is every company’s greatest asset, and thoughtful gifts are one step closer towards maximizing company and individual value. 

Is anyone surprised that this non-profit had a nearly full turnover this past year?

A note to board members: It’s time to rethink the way you view and create your appreciation and gifting budget. Your mission can not be accomplished without consideration and care of those who do the hard work. Increasing your budget enough to make every single employee feel appreciated can drastically reduce and even eliminate burnout and turnover rates. In the corporate world, a turnover costs between $5k and $10k. How does a proper gift of $30 compare?

Ensure your employees feel rewarded and avoid the same costly mistake this nonprofit had and check out these 3 ideas for your $5 budget:

  1. Highly personal gifts. I used to work in an Urgent Care and one of my nurses was starting to disconnect from her work and her patients. I noticed and bought her something only a friend would know about-- tie dye shoelaces similar to the ones she had in high school when she met her husband. She talked about nervously staring at them in class after passing him a note. When I gave her that gift, she immediately felt seen and appreciated and reconnected with her highest purpose! She was so connected with her patients after that and started showing up early just to help out with the transitions from the previous shift.
  2. Treats for your whole office. We like to share a cultural or family tradition. On my birthday last year, I shared my Japanese heritage with the team and our whole team participated in a virtual sushi making class and everyone was sent a set of chopsticks and a sushi rolling mat. 
  3. Games like Happiness at Work are inexpensive ways to engage your team while spreading cheer. Created and founded by a woman with loads of HR experience, these games were developed to sneak in motivation as your team bonds are strengthened and your purpose and culture are elevated. At Coolperx, we play these games during every onboarding and every monthly meeting...even if it's just a few questions. We feel the impact of bringing play to our team rhythms.


Want more ways to show your appreciation for your employees and/or volunteers? Fill out Coolperx’s project planner and have us curate the perfect gift or merchandise for you and your team.



Schrage, Michael, Robin Jones, and Jeff Shcwartz. “Opportunity Marketplaces.” Opportunity Marketplaces. Deloitte Insights, 2020.


[1] Schrage, Jones, Schwartz, “Opportunity Marketplaces”, Deloitte Insights 2020, pg. 5