Recognizing your volunteers during National Volunteer Week 2019

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Since volunteering is a generous action that generates no profit, recognition is like a volunteer’s paycheck. Recognition is a key component that values the work your volunteers perform and motivates them to pursue their commitment. National Volunteer Week is the perfect opportunity to recognize your volunteers. This year, we are celebrating The Volunteer Factor – Lifting Communities, a colorful theme that may be customized to create a satisfying and significant campaign for your volunteers.

Recognition: what types of resources are available?

The Volunteer Canada report entitled Recognizing Volunteering in 2017 tackles the definition of volunteering and how it has evolved according to new trends in Canadian society. Prepared in line with a previous resource entitled 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, this report concludes that the definition of volunteering is expanding. It also states that showing appreciation is a key component of volunteer recognition.  

How you approach volunteer recognition depends on the types of volunteers in your organisation. Do you know your volunteers? Do they all wish to be celebrated the same way? Volunteer Canada research highlights a certain disparity between the way volunteers want to be recognized and the actual recognition practices within organisations. This is why, in 2013, Volunteer Canada created a Volunteer Recognition Tool and defined the four most desired types of recognition depending on volunteer personalities.

What are the various types of volunteer recognition?

Ask your volunteers to fill out a quick survey! Explore the tool for yourself and try to guess which type of recognition matches which volunteer.

  1. Rewards and gifts: this volunteer appreciates small gestures that underline his contributions.
  2. Meetings and social time: this volunteer likes being invited to socialise and network to highlight his contributions.
  3. Sincere accolades: this volunteer prefers personalised expressions of gratitude and likes to know the impact of his contributions on the community.
  4. Warm applause: this volunteer is proud of his accomplishments and wants his colleagues, his friends, and his family to celebrate them loudly and clearly.

*Please note that a volunteer can fall into more than one category.

A few suggestions to recognize each type of volunteer

Now that you are aware of the different types of recognition, here are a few examples to inspire you and help you plan your celebrations.

Rewards and gifts

  • Give affordable gifts connected with the NVW theme, i.e. The Volunteer Factor – Lifting Communities. Visit our online store and place an order today! You will find cloth bags, thank you cards, pins, notebooks, stickers, and so much more!
  • Give locally-made crafts. Reinforce ties with your community – just like volunteering does! – and support a local artisan that makes handmade gifts.
  • Share pictures of your volunteers, of their accomplishments, or of those who benefit from their contributions by creating a virtual photo album, a frame, or even a mug!
  • Give a gift-certificate from a local business. Volunteers donate so much time and energy that they deserve to relax and benefit from the various offerings in their community. This gift-certificate could be for a restaurant, a movie theater, a spa, or even a babysitting service. Note: when you contact the local business, ask them if they would be interested in offering the gift as a sponsor or a partner.

Meetings and social time

  • Invite presidents or senior officers from your organisation and partner organisations to a luncheon. Encourage these guests to mingle with your volunteers to get to know them.
  • Organise a potluck meal and invite your volunteers’ friends and family members.
  • Organise an evening activity. Whether it be mini-golf, bowling, a visit to a local fair, an escape room, or a gaming café, your volunteers will be most grateful.
  • Give a voice to your volunteers! Invite them to share their ideas and opinions regarding how you run your organisation. They may surprise you! You could discuss it over coffee.

Sincere accolades

  • Invite community members that benefitted from your volunteering program to an appreciation luncheon which your volunteers would also attend. If possible, ask them to write thank you notes and hand these out to your volunteers.
  • Make a video to thank your volunteers. It could be a song or a touching message. Check out this video made by an elementary school class in Michigan!
  • Write a recommendation letter or offer to be a reference for a volunteer looking to find a new job or a new volunteer placement.

Warm applause

  • Post a dedication on social media. It’s simple, it’s free, and it shines the spotlight on any volunteer! Take the time to write a brief thank you message and include the volunteer’s picture (with his or her permission).
  • Show appreciation for a volunteer by publishing a short story about his or her volunteering experience in your newsletter.
  • Invite your local paper to interview a volunteer.
  • Organise a recognition ceremony where each volunteer receives a certificate.

Whether you have considerable experience with volunteers or you were just assigned to a volunteer supervision role, never forget that recognition is at the heart of your organisation’s well-being. A volunteer who is aware of the impact of his contributions is more motivated and able to pursue his commitment. Since volunteering is a personal choice, thanking a volunteer should be one too!

Tell us how we can support your National Volunteer Week event or campaign. Each year we receive messages, tweets, and pictures showing all the wonderful ways you celebrated National Volunteer Week. We look forward to hearing about what you have in store for this year’s campaign. Use #NVW2019 to share your celebrations!

All of us at Volunteer Canada wish you a happy National Volunteer Week 2019!

National Volunteer Week 2019 is April 7-13! Find campaign tools to help you plan your events and more at

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