Effective Volunteer Recognition
Anishka Wijayarathne
17 දෙසැම්බර් 2019

Volunteer recognition is simply acknowledging and appreciating the efforts of volunteers. It can take on many forms from organized formal events to a simple thank-you. It shows appreciation for the work that volunteers do for their organizations/communities and provides them with a sense of belonging and contribution.

Volunteers’ preferences and characteristics should be taken into consideration in order to offer meaningful recognition. It should align with their personal values. If a volunteer doesn’t like being publicly recognized, instead of publishing his or her efforts it’s advisable to give them a simple thank you in a private space.

Volunteer recognition is important due to many reasons such as its contribution to productivity. If volunteers are recognized and rewarded appropriately it will boost their feeling of accomplishment and result in increased productivity. Recognizing their contribution will simultaneously increase a volunteer’s satisfaction and willingness to further volunteer therefore it also acts as a motivator.

Understanding individual characteristics of a volunteer will be highly beneficial when deciding on the type of recognition to be used. Factors such as generational differences, motivational differences and volunteering duration could be considered as some of the main components that plays a key role in understanding the type of recognition to be used. It is essential for volunteers to know that they made a difference. Informal and formal volunteer recognition are the two main broad categories of volunteer recognition.

Informal volunteer recognition:

Informal recognition can be given without much planning and effort. It could be a spontaneous contribution made “in the moment”.  This could be considered as one of the most powerful motivators, when practicing this approach it is important to match the reward to the volunteer, getting to know a volunteer and her/his personal preferences in order to recognize them in ways they feel rewarding, it is also advisable to link their rewards to the achievements while highlighting on the impact they have made. In many cases informal recognition is immediate, recognition for work should come as soon as possible after their achievements.

Formal volunteer recognition:

Formal rewards and recognition are best for long-term contributions. It’s a more formalized method of recognizing volunteer contribution. It usually involves a larger crowd in comparison to informal volunteer recognition. When providing organized recognition, it is important to ensure that the recognition method and reward have clearly defined objectives and criteria. (who is eligible, what is it for? When and where will it be given?) These should be communicated to the volunteers so they can work to achieve them. Use of meaningful rewards is an aspect to consider when organizing formal recognition, this could be achieved by seeking input from volunteers about what they value to offer recognition accordingly. If it’s an award the volunteers should have a clear understanding as to how they can achieve the award. Therefore, actions such as promoting the award and featuring past winners may have to be taken into consideration. Initiatives taken to offer flexibility to present the award at another event incase if a volunteer is unable to attend any annual event, to manage the award process consistently, being true to the criteria and avoiding delayed presentations are considered to be effective motivating factors

Volunteers characteristics, culture, and values are of utmost importance regardless of whether they are recognized formally or informally. To achieve maximum effectiveness in volunteer recognition a personal touch could be added to their recognition as these efforts helps to promote an energetic and positive environment. Finally, as recognition tends to wear off quickly volunteer efforts needs to be recognized often for the silent service they deliver to their organizations and communities.

Anishka Wijayarathne
17 දෙසැම්බර් 2019
Anishka Wijayarathne works as a consultant at the United Nations Volunteers, Sri Lanka. She is a graduate in international Business Management from the University of Plymouth


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