Recognition, in the context of volunteer management, is any deliberate action taken by your organization to acknowledge the contributions of your volunteers. A strong recognition strategy bolsters overall volunteer satisfaction, leading to higher volunteer retention rates that save your organization time and money.
Recognition strategies vary from organization to organization, leaving plenty of room to develop one that works within the framework of your available time and resources. Here are some points to consider:
1. It’s the Little Things
Implement recognition daily, through a warm smile upon the volunteer’s arrival and a big thank you at the end of a productive day – such practices cost nothing but the payoff is huge!
2. Time Specific Events
Annual volunteer appreciation parties, quarterly breakfasts, and monthly lunches where speakers present on topics of interest to volunteers, are special ways to say thank you to dedicated volunteers. Such events take time and money to execute well (look for donors who could sponsor these events), but they provide excellent opportunities for formalized appreciation, ongoing professional development and training, and for volunteers to cultivate connections among one another that will strengthen their overall bond with your organization.
3. Share Impact
Impact is also a form of recognition. Impact can be conveyed broadly (e.g. in a given year, the number of clients served by your volunteers or the amount of money saved by your organization through donated time) or on a more personal level (e.g. individual client feedback or a client’s success story).
At Bottomless Closet, we run a Volunteer Impact Report each month that ties a client who has come back for her post-hire appointment with the volunteer with whom she worked for her pre-interview appointment. Conjuring up memories of the casting list for the high school play, each month volunteers crowd around our list when it is posted. When a volunteer sees her name on the list, she knows that she contributed directly to a positive change in a client’s life – employment!
4. Build on Momentum
As April draws to a close, now is a great time to evaluate your volunteer recognition strategy and build off of the momentum of National Volunteer Month. A strong recognition strategy will be thoughtful, consistent, and employ various recognition tools throughout the year. Because recognition influences retention, and the cost of retaining a volunteer is usually far less than the cost of recruiting and training a new volunteer, developing a comprehensive recognition strategy is time and energy well spent by your organization.
By Stacey McFadin, Director of Volunteerism and Partnerships at Bottomless Closet