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Blog > The Volunteer Recognition Gap

The Volunteer Recognition Gap

posted on Sep 18, 2017

Your volunteers are central to what you do. They are the public face of your organization, and make it possible to reach far more stakeholders than you ever could by only relying on paid staff. In addition, the very act of volunteering brings legitimacy and heart to your organization in a way that nothing else can.

All of these values merit meaningful recognition.

Not to mention, if you actually take the time and effort to thank your volunteers for what they do, they are much more likely to continue volunteering.

How do you currently recognize your volunteers’ valuable contributions to your organizations? How do you know that is what they would like?

Volunteer Recognition Study

Volunteer Canada recently commissioned a study which asked how Canadians want to be recognized for their volunteer contributions. [3] The results of this study come with some good news and some bad news.

First, the bad news:

There is a significant gap between what volunteers want, and what organizations are actually doing, to recognize their volunteers’ valuable contributions.

Now, the good news:

What most people want is actually far cheaper and less time-consuming than what most organizations are currently doing. In fact, many volunteers have expressed that they are uncomfortable with expensive recognition events, because they would prefer the money be spent fulfilling the organization’s mandate more directly. [2]


Based on this study, Volunteer Canada created a Volunteer Recognition Tool, a web-based quiz which you can send to your volunteers. It will ask them a few fun questions, and at the end, will come up with a recognition method which is likely to appeal to that volunteer. The results can be sent to you, and to the volunteer. This tool is also available en Français.

Key Takeaway

The most important takeaway from all of this is that one size does not fit all. If you are not sure what would be the most meaningful way to thank a volunteer, then ask!

Volunteer Ottawa is a leader in professional development training for volunteer managers. Click here to see our full course listing, and to register.

[1] D. Lasby, "The Volunteer Spirit in Canada: Motivations and Barriers," 2004. [Online]. Available: http://www.imaginecanada.ca/sites/default/files/www/en/giving/reports/volunteer_spirit.pdf. [Accessed 27 July 2017]. [2] K. Seel, Ed., Volunteer Administration: Professional Practice, 3rd ed., Lexus Nexus Canada, 2016. [3] Volunteer Canada, "2013 Volunteer Recognition Study," October 2013. [Online]. Available: https://volunteer.ca/content/2013-volunteer-recognition-study. [4] Volunteer Canada, "The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement: Values, Guiding Principles, and Standards of Practice," 2012. [Online]. Available: https://volunteer.ca/content/canadian-code-volunteer-involvement-2012-edition.
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