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Blog > Volunteer Recognition needs to be personalized

Volunteer Recognition needs to be personalized

affiché le 27 juil 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

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 organization? How do you know that is what they would like?

Individual Motivations for Volunteering

One way to consider volunteer recognition is to link it to people’s original motivations to volunteer. 95% of people volunteer because they believe in the cause your organization works for, while 30% volunteer because their friends volunteer. [1] Someone who believes in the cause is more likely to want a personalized thank you which makes it clear what impact they have had. Someone who volunteers with friends may prefer a social gathering with those friends.

Agendas for Action

People can also be considered to have “agendas for action” when they choose to volunteer. These can be divided into three main frameworks, each of which is likely to be best served by different types of recognition activities.

Functional Motivations [2]

These people have specific needs, purposes, or goals which they are seeking to fill through volunteering. Examples could be the opportunity to use specific skills or experiences (a motivator for 81% of volunteers) or to improve job opportunities (23%). [1]

Possible meaningful recognition efforts:

  • Give the volunteer a promotion to a position with more challenge and responsibility
  • Provide a special commendation letter signed by a leader in the organization
  • A hand-written thank-you letter from someone who was directly affected by the volunteer’s work, e.g. someone the volunteer mentored for a period of time
  • Achieve Ontario certificate of experience

Identity-related Motivations [2]

The volunteering becomes a part of how the individual defines their individual or social identity, or group membership. Examples could be people who volunteer because they believe in the cause (95%), they or someone they know is affected by the cause (69%), or to explore their own strengths (57%). [1]

These recognition efforts may be especially meaningful:

  • Write a piece for the organization’s website calling out the individual as a dedicated volunteer in a specific capacity
  • Achieve Ontario certificate of experience
  • An award given in front of peers

Community Motivations [2]

This volunteerism is motivated by a responsibility or connection to a specific community or place. Examples could include volunteering because the volunteer or someone they know is personally affected by your organization's cause (69%), volunteering with friends (30%), or fulfilling religious obligations (26%). [1]

Try these recognition methods:

  • A hand-written thank-you letter from someone who was directly affected by the volunteer’s work, e.g. someone the volunteer mentored for a period of time
  • Provide concrete evidence of the results of the volunteer’s contribution to the community

To learn more…

To learn more about this key part of any successful volunteer management program, come to our upcoming professional development seminar. Attendees will learn research-based methods of volunteer recognition, and how recognition fits into the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement.

In addition, every participant will receive certification in Achieve Ontario, a free service which allows volunteer managers to create professional, widely-recognized certificates of experience gained through volunteer work. Registration is free for VO members.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to volunteer management. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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[1] D. Lasby, "The Volunteer Spirit in Canada: Motivations and Barriers," 2004. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 27 July 2017]. | [2] K. Seel, Ed., Volunteer Administration: Professional Practice, 3rd ed., Lexus Nexus Canada, 2016.
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