girl with manVolunteer recognition is not an event. It is an attitude and set of behaviors that communicate sincere gratitude for the contributions that volunteers make. While a special occasion is one means to express appreciation, there are dozens of small ways in which volunteers can get the message. For example:

  • They are greeted warmly when they report for duty.
  • They see that you value their time by having purposeful things for them to do (not “make work”).
  • They participate in the planning and design of initiatives, where appropriate.
  • They have access to resources that keep them apprised of agency news and accomplishments.
  • They are recognized as valued team members in agency publications.
  • They have the opportunity to offer feedback and see that you’re listening.

Formal recognition initiatives should take individual preferences and motivations into account. Some volunteers want to be acknowledged for specific achievements – e.g., managing fundraising events. Some may be drawn to activities that confer prestige or influence. Others may seek networking opportunities at which they could deepen their sense of community.

A personal touch always finds resonance. One of our Learning Community partners recognizes volunteers as well as donors in agency publications. Before mailing copies to the named individuals, staff members include handwritten notes to thank them for their service.

Recognition Resources

PDF2013 Volunteer Recognition Study (Volunteer Canada)

PDFRecognition Boosters: An Idea List for Volunteer Managers

PDFWays to Recognize Volunteers All Year

PDFCost Conscious Ways to Recognize Volunteers (Oregon Volunteers!)

PDFLuncheon Invitation & Agenda (Umatilla-Morrow Head Start)

PDFVolunteer Newsletter (Umatilla-Morrow Head Start)

PDFVolunteer News (VOA Family Relief Nursery)