In reading the many posts marking National Volunteer Week in the non-profit blogosphere last week, I came across a few Volunteer Week skeptics. Of course, it’s not that these individuals don’t think volunteers are amazing – they simply believe that we should maintain on-going volunteer engagement and recognition throughout the year. While I agree wholeheartedly, and made that point in my post last week, I think NVW should be embraced as part of your recognition planning.
For me Volunteer Week is a lot like Mother’s Day. Like most mothers, I wish my efforts were appreciated on a regular basis, instead of on just one Hallmark-card day each year! But until that happens (or pigs fly), it sure is nice to hear a few thank-yous and be feted, if only for a day. And while we shouldn’t need a prescribed week to acknowledge and thank volunteers for their efforts, it does offer up an opportunity for both personal recognition as well promotion of your organization and the valuable the work to which your volunteers are contributing. As I noted in one of my volunteer posts last week, this recognition can have a powerful impact.
The Power of Saying Thanks
Last year, New York Cares conducted a study to measure the impact that volunteer recognition had at their organization and found out that Volunteer Recognition Matters a Lot. They personally thanked volunteers who did multiple projects, and found “the volunteers [they] thanked completed four more projects over the year than people [they] left alone. They volunteered 15 times, compared to 11 times for the unrecognized group.” Colleen Farrell, Senior Director, Marketing and Communications at New York Cares notes that “repeat volunteers bring experience that helps raise the quality of the service we deliver. They’re less costly to deploy than bringing in and training new recruits. And returning volunteers are more likely to become leaders, which is critical for us to expand programs.”
Keep the Momentum Going to Promote Recruitment and On-going Engagement
Does your organization mount a “thank-a-thon” once a year or do you practice on-going volunteer or member recognition? If you don’t have a plan in place, now is a good time to get started. If you had any Volunteer Week celebrations, be sure to promote these in your upcoming communications. Even the most modest volunteers love to see their name and/or photo in the newsletter or in your members-only forum.
Think about how you can incorporate on-going volunteer/member recognition messaging into your regular communications, such as newsletters, blog posts, bulletins, as well as your social media (tweets and Facebook posts, etc.) efforts. As New York Cares' study confirms, volunteers who feel appreciated will stay actively engaged. And with the right messaging, your volunteer recognition pieces can also help you recruit new members or volunteers who see that your organization values volunteer efforts. I think even the Volunteer Week skeptics would agree that you should amortize the goodwill generated from your NVW celebrations as best you can and keep that momentum going throughout the year.
Tell us how your organization has incorporated on-going volunteer or member recognition into your communications.
Photo credit: rscottjones