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?
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.  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.
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.
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%). 
Possible meaningful recognition efforts:
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%). 
These recognition efforts may be especially meaningful:
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%). 
Try these recognition methods:
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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