Rethinking Volunteer Recognition

Posted Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

Rethinking Volunteer Recognition

When was the last time you showed appreciation for what a neighbor, volunteer, co-worker, employee, family member or friend did, be it a big or small task? How did showing that appreciation make you feel? How did the other person feel? Do you think that you made a difference in that person’s day?

You may agree that when you are shown appreciation, it makes you feel good. Because of that, you might be shocked to read this statistic from John Templeton Foundations: 50% of Americans regularly express gratitude to family, but only 15% express gratitude to colleagues.

Beth Steinhorn, President of VQ Volunteer Strategies, knows just how important it is to show appreciation to volunteers. She recently joined Sterling Volunteers to present “Rethinking Volunteer Recognition”, a session which helps organizations align recognition efforts with what actually motivates volunteers and teaches you how to strategically plan your organization’s recognition efforts in affordable and effective ways.

While taking the time to recognize your volunteer staff during National Volunteer Week (April 15th to 22nd) is important, it is just as critical to celebrate their impact throughout the year. Volunteer managers should reflect, plan and create a culture of appreciation all year long. Read on for some highlights and tips from Beth’s presentation.

Volunteer Recognition Research

We asked our webinar attendees how they show appreciation to their volunteer staff. Here’s what we found:

  • Annual volunteer recognition event—76.7%
  • Handwritten thank you notes, staff to volunteer kudos—75.5%
  • Small gifts-63.3%
  • Recognition for years of service (certificates or small gifts)—51.8%

Although the latest volunteer recognition research was published in Canada in 2013, the findings still hold true. Volunteers want to hear how their work makes a difference (80%) and close to 70% of them prefer to be thanked in person or on an informal basis instead of being recognized in large formal gatherings or banquets (which is the most popular way for organizations to recognize volunteers these days!).

How to Tailor Recognition to Different Volunteer Motivational Styles

Showing appreciation for volunteers leads to happier, more productive members of the team, which is why organizations should strategically plan for meaningful recognition of their teams. Volunteer managers need to create impactful roles while also building an infrastructure of support and appreciation. One thing to note: volunteers value personal recognition.

To help with personal acknowledgments, volunteer managers should realize that there the three types of personal motivational styles which impacts the type of recognition that drives them:

  • Achievement: Desire clear and concrete feedback and value positions with the opportunity to solve problems.
  • Power: Want to share their ideas and have influence. They value positions with prestige and status.
  • Affiliation: Like being with others in a warm, friendly environment. They value positions where they can build relationships.

Keep the Appreciation Flowing

Organizations need to keep the recognition momentum going. Do not make appreciation efforts a “one and done.” Continually brainstorm ideas, get input from volunteers on their recognition preferences and think “outside the box” of what your organization is currently doing. Doing so will help build relationships between the staff, volunteers and even the board members and nurture a team spirit where everyone is recognized.

Did you miss the most recent Sterling Volunteers webinar? You can download, “Rethinking Volunteer Recognition” on-demand at any time and learn how to keep celebrating your volunteers for the entire year.

We are thrilled to have Beth join us in presenting two future webinars: “How to Make the Case to Funders for Volunteer Engagement” on April 12th and “How to Deliver Effective Feedback to Volunteers” on May 10th.

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