I was spending some time with a senior pastor a while back. Our kids were playing together and we chatted while we watched. While we were talking, I asked him what he planned to do for his team for Thanksgiving this year. I was hoping for some inspiration for my own team.
His response was what I commonly hear from other leaders, too. He loves his team and wishes he could do more, but his budget is tight. And, while his church values generosity, he knows that stewardship is just as important, so cutting big checks or covering fancy meals isn’t something he’s comfortable with.
I’m sure a lot of you are in the same boat. You want to show your team that you’re grateful for them, but are concerned about budget.
Here are 11 free and cheap ideas to express gratitude to your team. These ideas come from my own experience and from other ministry leaders that I respect. Of course, I threw in a couple extra that I found online for good measure.
Free Ways to Say Thank You
1. Have A Conversation
Have a 1-on-1 conversation where you only focus on the things they do well, how they contribute to your team, what they’ve done that makes you proud, how they are uniquely gifted, or their individual wins for the last year. Taking time to personally compliment someone is an excellent and sincere way to say thank you. Just make sure the topic stays on wins; this isn’t the time to covering areas of improvement.
2. Send Them A Personal Email
Write them a personal email explaining how thankful you are to have them around and to be in their life. Be sincere and don’t hold back.
3. Take A Chance To Praise Them In Public
An Instagram or Facebook post, a dedicated email newsletter, or a blog post touting their contributions to the team are all great ways to publicly express your gratitude for someone. Not everyone loves public attention, so use this one with care.
4. Send Them A Handwritten Note
…or a letter in the mail. It doesn’t have to be an epically long note, either. Just making the effort to send something physical expresses a lot of appreciation. (This one isn’t technically free, but it’ll cost less than $1, so I’m calling it free.)
5. Give Them Extra Vacation Time
For paid staff members, this is a great, free way to let people know you value them and want them to enjoy working with you, too.
Cheap Ways to Say Thank You
1. Give Them A Small Amazon Allowance
Amazon will let you gift a monthly allowance to anyone you want. This is a great way to continually let your team know they are appreciated. We do $30/month allowance for each team member.
2. Make Them A Meal At Your Home
Nothing says thank you better than a homemade meal. Taking the time to shop, prepare, and share that meal with a team member is incredibly personal.
3. Take Them To A 1-on-1 Lunch
This is something you can do once a year or rotate with your team throughout the year. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I try to do this every other month with our team members that are in town.
4. Make Them Something Yourself
If you’re the crafty type, try your hand at making your team members a personalized gift. Or, if you’re not crafty, a valiant effort with sincerity can still communicate appreciation.
5. Buy Them Something Unique
If you’re really, definitely not the crafty type, take the time to shop for something unique that fits your team member’s interests. I don’t mean buy them a generic Bible with their name engraved on it. I mean find something that actually fits your team member’s uniqueness…and you can still have it engraved if you’re into that kind of thing.
6. Put Together A Small Gift Basket Yourself
If you love shopping, maybe you’d love finding several small things for each person. Still make them unique to each person. I’m a fan of things like desktop tools, special gift cards, and in-office redeemable coupons for things like a free afternoon off at the last minute.
The one thing to remember is this: you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to let people know you’re thankful for them. Taking chances throughout the year doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Put it on your calendar or leave yourself a note to do something regularly that tells your team that you love having them around.