Lessons Learned From National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week annually gives us an opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge the amazing contributions to the millions of volunteers across Canada for all that they do. Volunteer programs across Canada are busy hosting events, sending out appreciation letters and acknowledging various accomplishments through awards programs to name a few of the many ways to recognize volunteers.

Recognition or acknowledgement is a key component of the volunteer management cycle as part of the life cycle of the volunteer experience and it is an important facet of volunteer engagement to both retain and encourage volunteer growth, but it is a component that needs to be addressed through the life cycle of the volunteer experience.

There are many ways to thank volunteers, both formally and informally, and this article is not to list the many ways to do this but to encourage those who work with volunteers to make volunteer recognition an ongoing, living process.

As we are encouraged to change our smoke detector batteries during the daylight savings times, I  encourage you to develop and assess your volunteer recognition plans as you approach your National Volunteer Week activities. Look at this as an annual check up.

A key resource to create , if you have not done so already, is an annual recognition work/operational plan both to include a formal and informal annual plan. This plan should include both thanking staff that work with volunteers but also including and educating staff in those plans.

As you create your annual plan (spreadsheet), you should also include a way to measure success by creating an evaluation tool to understand the success of your recognition activities. These tools could be as simple as a series of questions within your annual volunteer survey or tracking the number of invitations against the number of attendees. It could include telling stories and statistics, which are both quantitative and qualitative ways to measure success.

The rationale behind this, is to both understanding the success of recognition for the diverse volunteer population that you serve but also to make sure that the recognition is appropriate for the activities.

This plan should be evaluated on a regular basis, including the key indicators of success, the key personnel that are involved and updated to reflect the trends in our communities, including technology and social media.

Finally, as you think about this, and develop your recognition operational plan, keep in mind the key stakeholders which should include staff, senior leadership and the Board of Directors.

Is there both a role for them to be part of the plan, and how are you recognizing their contributions?

Keeping volunteers engaged and satisfies is not just about recognizing their efforts but understanding what motivates them and by creating an action plan will help you to  take the time to create meaningful and creative tools and activities that have the biggest impact.

As someone who has spent many years recognizing volunteers for their amazing contributions, let me take this opportunity  to say thank you to all those who manage volunteers, for your hard work and contributions to making volunteerism such an important part of our lives.


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