In order for volunteer-run nonprofit organizations to be sustainable they often need to retain volunteers. The most important retention strategy (aside from safe working conditions) is volunteer recognition. Over the past few years the sector has begun to really stress the importance of volunteer recognition; not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because organizations likely stand to benefit from making their volunteers feel appreciated.
Last week, Volunteer Canada released their Volunteer Recognition Tool. It is a 9-question survey for volunteers to identify how they prefer to be recognized. Volunteer managers can use this information to recognize their hard working volunteers in ways meaningful to those volunteers. Survey data published in Volunteer Canada’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study indicates an overwhelming 80% of volunteers simply want to know how their efforts have made a difference.
Here are a few observations we had about this statistic:
- It is incredibly obvious. Research by Imagine Canada indicates that 95% of people chose “believe in the cause” as a primary motivation for volunteering. Of course, they want to see how their efforts made a difference – That’s why they volunteered in the first place!
- This is good news. It’s good news because of all the ways to recognize volunteers this is among the least costly. For nonprofit organizations that often face funding challenges, it means they can adequately recognize volunteers without breaking the bank.
The Volunteer Recognition Study results are encouraging because it means volunteers generally prefer volunteer recognition methods that happen to be cheaper than others. Alberta’s nonprofits might not all have big budgets, but it’s safe to say they have lots of heart. A sincere heartfelt ‘thank-you’, whether in the form of a cup of coffee, phone call, letter, post-it note, or Volunteerville post, might be just what they are looking for.
Please keep in mind that volunteer appreciation events do have value and some people enjoy being recognized publicly. But, the survey results show that volunteers don’t necessarily volunteer their time expecting a public thank you along with a free burger. National Volunteer Week is an important opportunity for our sector to recognize volunteers. NVW Enhancement Funding, which is available to Volunteer Alberta members, can go a long way in helping communities rally around their volunteers without stretching their budgets. But volunteer recognition is a year-round activity and different approaches, whether formal or informal, are valuable. The important thing is that recognition efforts are personal and help connect the volunteer with the value of their role.
How do your volunteers prefer to be recognized? Have them use the Volunteer Recognition Tool and find out!
Tim Henderson, Program and Communications Coordinator