How to do 12.7 million good volunteer thank yous

publication date: Apr 20, 2017
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author/source: Lainie Towell

When considering volunteer recognition in 2017, keep in mind that volunteering comes in many forms and is as diverse as Canada itself. National Volunteer Week, (April 23-29, 2017) is a time to thank and recognize Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers for the difference they make in our communities.

Impact matters to volunteers When it comes to volunteer recognition one-size does not fit all. Getting to know what motivates volunteers is key to understanding how each of them prefer to be recognized. While recognition activities should be customized to the individual and reflect their level of engagement, according to Volunteer Canada’s and Investors Group's 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, telling volunteers about the impact of their efforts is a preferred way of being acknowledged.

People appreciate a personalized thank you. This is something that can be easily done on a regular basis. Whether it is with words that highlight a volunteer’s contribution or a small personalized token or gift. Being sincere and customized makes a difference.

Volunteer Recognition Tool at Screening Organizations can expand the concept of volunteer recognition by taking the time to learn about their volunteers’ motivations and preferences. This can be achieved by building in questionnaires such as Volunteer Canada’s and Investors Group‘s Volunteer Recognition Tool to accompany any screening and administration documentation that is already being requested.

Recognition practices can also be expanded upon by learning about the kinds of skills individuals would like to apply or develop as volunteers. In turn, organizations can strive to ensure that volunteers needs and desires are being met and fulfilled. This can include thinking creatively about volunteer recognition within special events. Why not try something different such as offering training or networking opportunities with celebrations around volunteer recognition?

Who's a volunteer? Another way to think about volunteer recognition is in how we define volunteering, as Volunteer Canada and Investor Group explores in their 2017 Volunteer Recognition Study. Community involvement in Canada is evolving. Raking the neighbour’s lawn or bringing a lost animal to the shelter is considered by many as informal ways of volunteering. Consequently, we may miss recognizing those who do not occupy a formal volunteer role within an organization or group, even though their actions are helping to build stronger and more connected communities. By expanding our definition of volunteering to be more inclusive we recognize all volunteers, both formal and informal, for the impact they collectively create in our communities.

Recognition year round Volunteers contribute time every day of the year. There are many opportunities to build upon existing recognition efforts and implement a more holistic practice that acknowledges volunteers for their contributions year-round. 

Lainie Towell is Director of Innovation and Public Engagement / Directrice, Innovation et engagement public Volunteer Canada / Bénévoles Canada Here is where to find Volunteer Canada and Investor Group 2017 Volunteer Recognition Study and Volunteer Canada’s and Investors Group‘s Volunteer Recognition Tool



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