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Show Volunteers How They’ve Made a Difference

Lori Halley 09 December 2013 1 comments

Heart-VolunteersHow do volunteers want to be recognized for their contributions?  A recent report indicates that most volunteers simply want to be thanked and shown the impact of their efforts.

report from Volunteer Canada and the Investors Group, offers insight into best practices in volunteer recognition and retention based on two national surveys. One of the most interesting findings is that while over 80% of the organizations surveyed suggested the key barrier to recognizing volunteers was lack of funds, “80% of volunteers said that the top way they would like to be recognized is by hearing about how they have made a difference. They want to know the impact of their contributions.”

Key findings of 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study

Here are some of the key findings of the 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study:

Top two ways volunteers want to be recognized

  • 80% stated that they would like to be recognized or thanked by the organization they volunteer for by hearing about how their work has made a difference.
  • Close to 70% stated they would like to be recognized by being thanked in person on an ongoing, informal basis.

Least preferred ways volunteers want to be recognized

  • Volunteers indicated that their least preferred forms of recognition include banquets, formal gatherings, and public acknowledgment in newspapers, radio or television. Interestingly, these methods are common methods for many organizations, with 60% citing banquets and formal gatherings, and 50% using public acknowledgement as their recognition strategies.

Perceived barriers to volunteer recognition

  • Over 80% of organizations indicated that the most common barrier they encounter around volunteer recognition is that they do not have enough money in the budget to do what they want to do. Yet 80% of volunteers would like to be recognized by hearing the impact of their contributions.

Expanding the concept of volunteer recognition

  • Volunteers and organizations alike have identified a need to redefine perceptions of volunteer recognition – away from a once a year banquet and towards a holistic, year round practice that acknowledges volunteers for their individual contributions of supporting the communities around them.
  • Organizations can expand the concept of volunteer recognition by taking time to learn about volunteers’ motivations and preferences. This can be achieved by building in questionnaires to accompany the documentation organizations are already requesting for screening and administration. This information can be referenced for ongoing recognition throughout the year.
  • Recognition practices can be expanded by learning about the kind of skills volunteers’ would like to apply or develop and by ensuring that this is being fulfilled in their volunteer roles.Organizations can create an event that embeds training or networking opportunities with celebrations around volunteer recognition. 

Applying this insight to your 2014 volunteer planning

While this report is based on the “More than 13.3 million volunteers in Canada contribute 2.1 billion hours of time every year”, I’m sure the findings apply to the legions of volunteers around the globe. So if you are in the midst of volunteer planning for 2014, you might want to check out the full 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study here: http://volunteer.ca/content/2013-volunteer-recognition-study.

Additional Volunteer Resources

Here are some additional volunteer planning resources that are available in our Membership Knowledge Hub:

How are you recognizing your volunteers?  Drop us a note in the comments below.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 09 December 2013 at 8:30 AM


  • Joelle Wyser-Pratte said:

    Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 6:45 PM
    This the beauty of being a volunteer, you gain friends who are willing to sacrifice their own time to help other people expecting of nothing in return.
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