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Volunteer Recognition During Tough Financial Times

on Fri, 03/11/2011 - 00:00

National Volunteer Week in the US and Canada (April 10-16, 2011) is fast approaching. Many organizations provide recognition during this week through banquets or gifts such as lapel pins or tote bags…but what do you do when the budget’s been slashed and you can barely afford a pizza party, let alone a banquet?

As wonderful as parties and special gifts are, there are many meaningful ways to provide low-cost (or no-cost!) recognition. One great resource for ideas is Energize’s Collective Wisdom area on volunteer recognition. Another is Bill Wittich’s book, 77 Ways to Recognize Volunteers. At only $5, this e-book can fit into any budget, and it provides tips for both formal and informal recognition that you’ll use all year long. Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite tips from this book.

If you have a creative recognition idea that you’d like to share, be sure to post it in the comments! We’ll also add it to our Collective Wisdom pages.

Excerpted from 77 Ways to Recognize Volunteers by Bill Wittich, Knowledge Transfer Publishing © 2003.


69: Don’t Recognize Volunteers
(ed. note: even though this is one of the last tips in the book, I’m putting it first in this list because I think it’s one of the most important!)
That’s right, don’t recognize your volunteers, only recognize individuals. You should not recognize everyone the same…Each volunteer who does a specific task should be recognized for that task. It’s our job to thank each volunteer by name and by telling them why you are thanking them.

22: Make Up Your Own Cards
I like to buy plain unprinted note cards (made by Avery Labels and found in the office supply store). I use my computer to print the front flap with sayings such as, “Behind the Scenes Award,” “Pat on the Back Award,” or “Caught in the Act of Caring Award.” I will write a personal note inside the card and usually just drop it off by their jacket or purse. They will find it and it does gain gratitude from the volunteer. Be sure to give a specific reason for the card. It’s an inexpensive but very personal way to say thank you.

18: Throw Away That Pen
Oh, it’s the pen that writes in black ink that I am talking about. It always looks as if you had written one note to the volunteers, signed it, and then photocopied the rest of them. This is very insulting to the volunteers because they will think that if they give you all those hours, the least you can do is hand sign each note. Choose your favorite color ink so it’s obvious that each note is signed personally. Never use a rubber signature stamp and never have someone else sign your notes. Your volunteers know your signature!

24: Send E-mail
Most volunteers would appreciate receiving e-mail from you telling them how much you appreciate the hard work they have been doing. There are even e-greeting cards that you can send which are free but sure carry a warm message. Your volunteers will print those messages off and put them on their bulletin boards for others to ask about. While hand-written notes are nice, all thoughts expressed in writing, even on a computer, count as serious recognition.

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