Volunteer Recognition – Why?

When volunteers join your organisation it makes good sense to make every effort to retain them. It is a costly proposition to recruit and train replacement volunteers. Moreover, the time lost in recruiting replacement volunteers can result in lengthy periods where an organisation may not be able to deliver the additional quality of service that a volunteer may bring to the organisation.

One useful way of encouraging your volunteers to remain with your organisation is to give them adequate recognition. For recognition to be effective, it should be consistent and ongoing. Volunteers can quickly lose motivation if they feel that their work is not being valued.

It is important that volunteer managers are aware of the different ways in which volunteer efforts can be recognised. This is because one volunteer may regard one type of recognition as valuable, while another may feel it has little worth. If a Volunteer Manager is aware of the volunteer’s motivation in working for the organisation, then this will provide a good indication for the type of recognition that the volunteer is seeking. For example, if a volunteer is hoping to obtain paid employment, he/she will value opportunities to receive training, obtain a certificate of training recognition and/or a referee for their resume.

In many cases, volunteers who are motivated by helping the community will see their work as reward and will only require support from their volunteer organisation. The support given by paid staff and the Volunteer Manager can be shown in many ways. The enthusiasm of paid staff for the aims of the volunteer program is very important because it will naturally engender within the organisation the recognition that volunteers are important.

How to recognise your volunteers

Some ways that volunteer organisations may give recognition to their volunteers include:

  • Adequately orientate volunteers.
  • Have volunteer coordinators readily accessible to volunteers.
  • Encourage volunteer participation in team planning.
  • Encourage volunteer participation in planning that affects their work.
  • Provide training.
  • Give additional responsibility.
  • Enable volunteers to ‘grow’ on the job.
  • Include volunteers in special events.
  • Include volunteers in coffee breaks.
  • Recommend volunteers to prospective employers.
  • Maintain Occupational Health and Safety standards.
  • Take the time to explain and listen to volunteer’s ideas and concerns.
  • Recognise and accommodate personal needs and problems.
  • Celebrate achievements and efforts.
  • Keep volunteers informed via newsletter.
  • Provide letters of reference.
  • Send birthday and Christmas cards.
  • Allocate notice board space to applaud volunteer achievement.
  • Organise awards with certificates, plaques or medals.

Recognition Days

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week provides a national focus for organisations wanting to recruit volunteers and promote the value of volunteering to the community. Each year, Volunteering Australia adopts a different theme that is launched during the week and used for the following 12 months.

Any organisation involving volunteers is welcome to participate in the week and use the theme to promote volunteering in their local area.

In Australia, National Volunteer Week is celebrated in May.

International Volunteer Manager Day: 5 November

International Volunteer Manager (IVM) Day is celebrated throughout the world on 5 November. The annual event recognises the efforts of the dedicated group of volunteer resources managers who are responsible for the coordination, support, training, administration, leadership and recruitment of the world’s volunteers – skilled individuals who are adept at taking singular passion and turning it into effective action. For more information, visit www.volunteermanagersday.org

International Volunteer Day: 5 December

December 5 was declared as International Volunteer Day (IVD) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. The first International Volunteer Day was celebrated in l986 by dozens of countries. Activities ranged from clean-up campaigns, round- table conferences, competitions and exhibitions.

In Australia, International Volunteer Day has been designated as a day for the recognition of volunteer involvement; a day in which organisations can thank their volunteer staff.

There are many ways to recognise and thank volunteers. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Send cards or thank you letters to your volunteers.
  • Give your volunteers a small present or certificate.
  • Organise a special lunch or dinner.

Volunteer Awards

A number awards are given each year to volunteers who’ve made an outstanding contribution to the community. Here is a list of awards you can nominate someone for or be nominated for:

NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Award is an annual awards program launched in 2007 by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding efforts of the millions of volunteers in NSW, and to promote the importance of volunteering to the community and organisations.  More information can be found on our website.

Australian of the Year Awards

Each year our nation celebrates the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards by profiling leading citizens who are role models for us all. They inspire us through their achievements and challenge us to make our own contribution to creating a better Australia.