Creative Ways to Recognize Volunteers

By Penny Kern

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a volunteer manager was to ASK THE VOLUNTEER what type of recognition they like. Nothing was more frustrating to me than to receive a piece of very expensive silver from an organization I helped raise money to provide youth services. I hated (and still do) silver and I thought it was a total waste of money. If they had asked, I could have told them it wasn’t necessary. I had to eventually say something – I think it was the second piece of silver they tried to give me.

The kinds of recognition I like are the ones that took some time and thought because they showed that the organization really knew who I was. Public recognition is ok but it only brings more requests for help from the outside world. Here are a few of my favorite ideas. Share some of yours with us, too.

“No one holds a candle to you!” and you give them a scented candle or pack of small birthday candles.

“You are a LIFESAVER!” and you give them a roll of lifesaver candy

“Your vision is our GUILDING LIGHT!” and you give them a mini flashlight.

“I’m lucky to have your help!” and you give them a rabbit’s foot.

“Thanks for raisin’ the ….(you fill in the rest – bar, tough questions, etc) and give them a small box of raisins.

There’s also a ton of candy bar quotes you can use. If you have a lot of people to recognize, this gets expensive but it shows you really know this person.

Share! I love new ideas.

Penny Kern is retired volunteer manager and a featured blogger.

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One Response to Creative Ways to Recognize Volunteers

  1. Lori Tsuruda says:

    Sometimes non-volunteer-management people don’t understand our jargon, so if I ask them how they like to be “recognized” they may not understand the scope of what is possible. When I interview people, I try to assess their motivations so I can later gauge the type of recognition that fits why they are participating. So if a college student wants to go to graduate school, then I can let him/her know what is required in order to obtain a great letter of recommendation for medical/businesss school. Or if someone wants a promotion at work, then I can offer to write to his/her company about the excellent volunteer work s/he has contributed, mentioning management, supervisory, leadership skills if applicable.

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