Recognizing Volunteers During National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is about to enter into its 71st year, April 21 – 27 2013 will see organizations going all-out to make sure their volunteers are recognized.

Recognizing volunteers is a continuous year-round effort, but during National Volunteer Week organizations and their staff go the extra step saying “thanks” to their volunteers. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s not always easy to find new ways of showing your appreciation, so we here at Volunteer Calgary have compiled a list of what some of the best Volunteer Managers do for their volunteers.

Volunteer recognition event – An event during National Volunteer Week is a common theme among organizations. It’s not always a dinner, sometimes there are luncheons or wine and cheese events; but the theme is common, a little food goes a long way to showing your volunteers you care.  You can also treat volunteers to the grand celebration of volunteerism during Calgary’s premier volunteer recognition event, the 17th Annual Leadership Awards!

Newsletter recognition – Matt Baden at the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking believes that it’s the personal touch that goes a long way to showing his appreciation. “I have always been a fan of the hand-written thank you card,” says Baden. He also likes to acknowledge volunteers in ACT’s monthly newsletter.
Selina Clary at Silvera for Seniors likes to take a similar approach to volunteer recognition. In addition to their volunteer appreciation event during National Volunteer Week, she likes to give year round recognition on Silvera’s newsletter and website.

Showing their Impact – Sarah Firman at Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta has found that one of the best ways to show volunteers appreciation, is for those volunteers to see their impact. At their annual volunteer appreciation event, past families who have stayed at the Ronald McDonald house return to speak about the impact volunteers had on them. “Hearing these families speak is really the most impactful way to recognize volunteers. Volunteers hear first hand from the people they are serving, how all of the things they do, big and small, make a huge difference in supporting families,” says Firman.
Firyal Mohamed at Momentum also makes a point of keeping her volunteer updated on the successes of past program participants, so that the volunteers at Momentum can see their impact.

Membership – Some organizations have a membership model – organizations like the YMCA Calgary. Naturally, contributing to the overall wellness of individuals is very important to the YMCA, and there’s no better way to say thank you than membership. “In appreciation for everything our volunteers do, including meeting their monthly time commitment and attending ongoing training, we offer up a YMCA Calgary General membership,” says YMCA Calgary’s Joann Hook. Firyal Mohamed at Momentum also shows her appreciation for her volunteers by giving them the option to opt-into membership.

Awards – Volunteers are a notoriously modest bunch, but come on, who doesn’t love an award every now and then. Host an award ceremony or event during National Volunteer Week, where some of your best and brightest volunteers are honoured. Dan St. Yves at the Canadian Diabetes Association makes sure that each year one of his hard-working volunteers gets thanked with a plaque as the Southern Alberta Regional Volunteer of the Year. Sarah Firman at the Ronald McDonald House Southern Alberta combines a volunteer appreciation event with an awards night.

Name recognition – Deanna Holt at CUPS had a volunteer that really went the extra mile, and had diligently worked on a project. Deanna and the staff at CUPS appreciated the volunteer so much, that they named the project after that volunteer. “So when the time comes for us to recruit someone else to take over her role, the contribution she made will continue to be recognized,” explains Holt. Nothing says that you are appreciated like your name living forever in an organization.

What are some other quick tips on ways to celebrate National Volunteer Week?

Media – Contact your local paper and ask them to feature your volunteers as a local story. Don’t limit yourself to just print media, there is television and radio also! Or you could go the contemporary route and give your volunteers a shout-out by name on your social media pages…Facebook is usually a safe bet.

Open House – Holding a fun open house where you can invite everyone from staff and your board, to clients and the public. Use that forum to highlight your volunteers contributions and milestones such as: how many years have volunteers been with you? How many hours have they put in?

Food – Have we mentioned how much a free tasty meal makes people feel appreciated? It does. Having coffee and muffins available to your volunteers is a great way to say thanks for coming in.

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About Propellus

Propellus is a non-profit organization that has been empowering organizations since 1955. Through a dynamic range of consulting, training and member services, it helps organizations envision and realize new paths, practices and possibilities. Propellus guides, mentors and educates clients, arming them with tools and resources to help boost organizational effectiveness. Propellus strengthens organizations; in doing so, it leads the way toward building thriving communities.
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