Volunteer recognition: Why is it important?

Article one on volunteer recognition: What volunteer recognition is, ideas for recognition throughout the year and the importance of volunteer recognition.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, this article series will focus on volunteer recognition. Volunteer recognition acknowledges accomplishments, reinforces efforts and is a sign of appreciation. It can be as easy as a smile and the words thank you. Sometimes, it involves children thanking an adult volunteer. Award ceremonies are another way to recognize efforts. Flowers and other tokens can also be used to express thanks.  However it is done, recognition is an important component of any program. Many of the techniques found in this webinar can be used when recognizing youth, parents and other stake holders.

The Michigan 4-H Recognition Handbook says that recognition provides individuals with an opportunity for self-assessment, reflection and rewards to motivate and increase self-esteem in all settings. All humans need to be recognized in a meaningful way for their efforts. This helps to build self-esteem and confidence. Recognition is an important component of volunteer retention. When volunteers feel appreciated and important, they are more likely to feel connected to the program and continue their involvement.

A comprehensive recognition plan is balanced and will acknowledge participation and effort, progress towards goals and excellence. Recognizing participation and effort means that we acknowledge that showing up is a big deal. Youth and volunteers in programs should receive acknowledgement for taking the time to participate.  This level of recognition may include a token or certificate for participating for a year, a year end celebration, or other efforts to acknowledge those who made and kept their commitment.

We shouldn’t wait until an annual event or when the volunteer leaves the organization to acknowledge our volunteer’s efforts. Along the way, we should thank them for the progress they are making. This may include a card during or after a particularly stressful time for the volunteer or it might be a phone call to tell the volunteer that others have spoken highly of them. This could also mean highlighting a volunteer in your newsletter. 

When we recognize excellence, we acknowledge volunteer efforts that go above and beyond. Nominating a long time volunteer for the Governor’s Service Award, a Volunteer of the Year Award, Presidential Service Award or another award would be a great way to acknowledge years of service or extraordinary efforts.  Tokens or certificates for the number of years or hours served can also be used to show appreciation.

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