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March 2011 

Recognize Volunteers in Meaningful Ways

In This Issue
Featured Resource: Keeping Volunteers
Further Resources
Excerpt: "Considerations in Volunteer Recognition"
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Visit the Energize Book Blog to get the latest info on volunteer management resources.

Current Post: Volunteer Recognition During Tough Financial Times

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Informal Volunteer Recognition: Creating a Culture of Appreciation
(Self-Instruction Guide)
Starting April 18, 2011

Trainer: John L. Lipp, Executive Director, PAWS, California, USA

This Guide looks at the art of informal volunteer recognition and explores a multitude of techniques that can boost the morale of volunteers and paid staff. Learn how to increase retention, improve quality of work, and develop a more pleasant work environment for both volunteers and employees by creating a "culture of appreciation."

Access this self-instruction guide plus other topics and benefits by signing up for our $99 trial run.
The season for recognizing volunteers on a national level is about to kick off. Many countries annually designate specific weeks for remembering the people who unselfishly dedicate their time and effort to making the world a better place. Below is a list of several of them, with the dates for 2011.

Energize books and resources can help you prepare to make volunteer recognition meaningful. Find new ways to celebrate the accomplishments of everyone in your organization, both volunteers and employees.

National Volunteer Week
May 9-15, 2011

National Volunteer Week
April 10-16, 2011

New Zealand
National Volunteer Awareness Week
June 19-25, 2011

National Volunteer Month
December, 2011

United Kingdom
Volunteers' Week
June 1-7, 2011

United States
National Volunteer Week
April 10-16, 2011

Note, too, that 2011 has been designated the European Year of Volunteering and is also the United Nations' "International Year of Volunteers + 10".
resource2 Featured Resource
Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention
by Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch

Keeping VolunteersIn this book, McCurley and Lynch focus on enhancing volunteer retention and motivation, avoiding volunteer burnout, and getting beyond short-term commitments. Intertwined are many references to making sure volunteers feel recognized and appreciated on an ongoing basis, especially two chapters on making volunteers feel special and adapting recognition techniques to the unique accomplishments and personalities of each volunteer.

Visit our online bookstore for a book excerpt, table of contents, and a list of the material included in this e-book - and to place an order! Note that Keeping Volunteers is available only as an e-book.
resource2 Further Resources
Truly recognizing volunteers takes more than saying "thank you" and passing out certificates. Here is a list of resources to learn about meaningful ways to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of volunteers whether celebrating nationally recognized volunteer events or trying to build a culture of recognition in the day-to-day operations of your volunteer program.

Volunteer Recognition Skit Kit
Transform your next recognition event with songs, smiles, and this collection of seven original skits, complete with instructions, scripts and ideas for adaptation.

Training Module 12 in The 55-Minute Training Series: Volunteer Recognition
Ready-to-deliver training for salaried and volunteer staffs about the significance of meaningful recognition and how to generate creative formal and informal ways to acknowledge volunteers and staff.

Recognizing Volunteers and Paid Staff: The Art, the Science, and a GAZILLION Ideas!
The classic book by Sue Vineyard offers 10 keys to recognizing volunteers and gives a long list of actions you can take to say "thank you."

Everyone Ready Self-Instruction Guide "Informal Volunteer Recognition: Creating a Culture of Appreciation" by John L. Lipp
April's featured topic for the Everyone Ready online training program. You can access this downloadable workbook from April 18 through May 14 when taking a 2-month trial run of the program.
Resources Book Excerpt
Considerations in Volunteer Recognition 

From Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention
By Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch

You should note that an "ideal" recognition system might require a mixture of different procedures in order to have something for every type of volunteer. This is not unusual and is quite appropriate. Heidrich (1990) sums this up quite pithily: "There is no single recognition event that will make everybody happy." Many organizations fail to do this, with interesting results. Consider, for example, an all-too-typical organization that gives its volunteer awards only according to the amount of time donated, a "longevity" prize. If you're a short-term volunteer how do you feel about this system? Or if your busy schedule limits the time you can offer? Could you possibly ever "win" under these rules? What would this type of award suggest to you about the value that the organization places upon your own contribution of time?...


Today's new volunteers are not always impressed with the "tenure" pins. A large segment of contemporary volunteers are looking for episodic, short term, time specific volunteer assignments. They are seeking ways to fit volunteerism into an already busy work/family schedule. The last thing many of these new volunteers are interested in is a recognition system that focuses on "length of service."...


You may also find differences based on how most volunteers go about their volunteering. One study, for example, found that volunteers who tend to work closely with other volunteers throughout the year tend not to be excited by the annual volunteer recognition luncheon - yet another opportunity to get together with other volunteers who they already see on a regular basis. Those volunteers who worked mostly in the community with little contact with other volunteers relished the idea of an annual gathering.


In a survey of 4-H volunteers, Culp and Schwartz found that volunteers considered these the most meaningful forms of recognition (in order of preference):

  1. Thank-you notes
  2. Pat on the back
  3. Formal recognition banquets
  4. Informal recognition (at a meeting)
  5. Receiving plaques, pins, trays, etc.
  6. Phone calls
  7. Recognition at a state-wide event
  8. Home visits

And volunteers ranked as the most meaningful source of the recognition:

  1. 4-H members
  2. 4-H club
  3. County/community
  4. 4-H organizational staff
  5. Other volunteers in the organization
  6. State-wide
  7. District-wide
  8. News media


Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of source, as provided: Excerpted from Keeping Volunteers: A Guide to Retention, 2005, Fat Cat Publications. Can be purchased in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore at
Energize, Inc.
5450 Wissahickon Ave., C-13
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Energize empowers and inspires leaders of volunteers worldwide. Our specialty is creating and selecting the most relevant, innovative resources in volunteer management. We're advocates for the power of volunteers and for the recognition of the leaders who unleash it.
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