Volunteers Week: 10 tips to recognise your volunteers all year round
With an estimated 14 million people volunteering at least once a month, volunteering has a huge impact on our communities and we should make every effort to celebrate this. Recognising and valuing volunteers is an important feature in good volunteer management. Volunteers Week runs from 1-7 June and the annual event is a fantastic chance to celebrate the difference volunteers make to every community. Get Out Get Active is working with Volunteering Matters to ensure more volunteers can access opportunities all year round.
Get Out Get Active (GOGA) is a UK wide programme funded by Spirit of 2012 that aims to encourage disabled and non-disabled people to take part in and enjoy activity together. Working in 18 locations, GOGA is reaching the least active individuals in the community through fun and inclusive activities.
Volunteering Matters is a national partner for the GOGA programme. Together with other local and national partners, Volunteering Matters is working to create more opportunities for people to support GOGA activities.
Through GOGA, there will be many opportunities for volunteers from mentoring and buddy roles through to marketing, evaluation and delivery roles. In return, volunteers will have the chance to learn and develop new skills, build confidence and help to make their community healthier, happier and more cohesive.
Elin Strom is the Project Officer at Volunteering Matters working on Get Out Get Active. Here, Elin gives Volunteering Matters’ top recommendations on valuing volunteers:
Celebrate your volunteers all year round
Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) is a fantastic time to hold a celebration event but make sure you value and recognise your volunteers throughout the year, not only during Volunteers’ Week.
Make it personal
Social media is a great, public way to thank and celebrate your volunteers but unless they are checking your social media accounts, how will they ever know how grateful you are? In addition to publicly showing your appreciation through social media, go beyond the normal thank you tweet and recognise your volunteers more directly too.
Understand your volunteers
Volunteers are donating their time for many different reasons. Understanding these motivations is very important in being able to show your thanks in a way they will appreciate. For example, a student volunteer might appreciate training opportunities more than a retired volunteer.
Say thank you
This is the easiest and probably most effective way to recognise your volunteers. And it’s free! Say thanks to your volunteers often and be sincere and specific when you do it. You can say thanks informally – in person, on the telephone, email or card and/or formally at special events. Make sure everyone understands why you have volunteers and why they are so vital to your organisation.
Show them they are part of the team
Volunteers are an integral part of any organisation, not an add-on service. Making them feel like part of the team is incredibly important and you can ensure this very simply by giving them a uniform, a volunteer badge or t-shirt. Good communication is equally important: involving volunteers in newsletters or staff emails, or simply providing volunteers a platform to share their experiences and find out information is a simple way to involve a volunteer.
Certificates are a great way to recognise and physically qualify a volunteer’s contribution. You could also give them branded merchandise such as a badge or a canvas bag. Having something tangible for the hours put in can often make all the difference to a volunteer and act as not only an incentive, but a source of pride.
Many volunteers are motivated to be involved to meet new people- something we have found increasingly with disabled people and those who are retired. Organising a volunteer social activity is a great way to bring all your volunteers together, and regular interaction with your volunteers helps to keep them inspired and motivated.
Training volunteers shows that you value them and want to invest in them. We have found this is especially interesting for volunteers motivated to improve their skills and employability, or those applying for higher education/employment. Plus, training your volunteers is a win-win situation!
Show your appreciation and nominate volunteers for awards. Or, you could put on your own internal awards! Remember to always be fair and make sure that all volunteers are supported, valued and recognised.
Volunteers are ambassadors!
Remember that a happy volunteer is a great ambassador for your project and organisation. If you haven’t done so already – thank your volunteers today!