Recognition of VIPs
A word must be said about living happily ever after with your volunteers. Now that your volunteer(s) have been recruited, interviewed, orientated and trained (whew!), all is smooth sailing, right?
Well … maybe, but our work is certainly not finished … it has only just begun. Volunteers want to be appreciated and recognised, which can’t be done once, or in lumps, or here and there. Recognition is a day-to-day concern.
Care must be taken that recognition does not reach either of its two extremes. Recognition without sincerity becomes tokenism, where something is done just for the sake of recognition and not because of a real interest in the volunteer’s welfare and involvement. Alternatively, oversensitive recognition can become overbearing, so that the volunteers may be saying under their breath, “Just leave me alone a bit, please.” A balance needs to be established between two extremes, where one fosters a real concern for the volunteers and acts out of that concern.
There are a number of things you can do in recognising your volunteers:
• Give constructive feedback to your volunteer(s) about their work (either formally in a set meeting with the volunteer or informally on the job).
• Provide opportunities for your volunteer(s) to give feedback about your organisation or group (two-way communication).
• Give your volunteer(s) opportunities for increased responsibilities.
• Invite your volunteer(s) to staff meetings to have their added input (be sure to encourage them to participate actively).
• Many organisations are inviting their volunteer(s) to sit on their Boards.
• Have an annual Volunteer Day (perhaps during National Volunteer Week) where you formally recognise your volunteer(s) and have some formal get-together with them (i.e. tea, dinner, party, etc).
• Have lunches or other meals with your volunteer(s).
• Have an open door policy with your volunteer(s).
Your volunteers are providing an IMPORTANT and VALUABLE service: let them know it!!
Remember also that like any staff person, the volunteer will eventually leave. When s/he does decide to move on to other things, be sure to take the time to have a final meeting with the volunteer to:
• Thank them personally for their service.
• Give the volunteer(s) a chance to offer some final feedback about your organisation or group (hopefully the reason for leaving is not because of bad feelings).
• Help the volunteer(s) in any way you can in their plans for the near future (i.e., job references).
The best advise we have heard about recognising volunteers? If you want to learn the very best ways to recognise your volunteers, “Ask them.”