In today’s Volunteer Management forum we discussed ways to show that we value our volunteers. Here’s some thoughts and ideas:
Letting volunteers know that their work makes a difference can be motivating and rewarding: Think about how you could measure the impact of your volunteers. This type of feedback enables volunteers to understand the impact that they have had on the work you do.
Trusting volunteers: Giving volunteers a new task with a different role, or more responsibility, demonstrates trust. Trusting volunteers is an important way to show volunteers that you value and recognise their contribution.
Being organised: Following up on initial enquiries, having work prepared, having an easy, clear system for expenses…all of these show that you are willing to put time and effort into managing volunteers.
Saying thank you: Sometimes a simple thank you is all the recognition that a volunteer wants. This can be informally in person, by telephone, by email, in a Christmas card or formally at the annual general meeting. You may also choose to write articles about volunteer tasks or profile specific volunteers for newsletters, newspapers or volunteer’s week. However you decide to do this it should be consistent and fair. But remember the same thanks every time can end up being tokenistic, so be sure to be personal, genuine, timely and specific.
Keeping volunteers informed: Volunteers can feel valued if they are kept up to date about what is happening with the organisation. Some organisations have started to use social media and set up blogs, or have dedicated pages for volunteers on their website.
Creating an identity: There are lots of different ways that you can do this. Being given clothing to wear and relevant equipment whilst doing their role helps volunteers feel part of the team. For example, some heritage volunteers said that having a ‘volunteer’ identity badge often helps the public appreciate that they are volunteers, and as such this gains respect.
Volunteer events: Providing time for volunteers to get together socially is a good way to acknowledge their contribution and keep them inspired. Meeting new people gives volunteers a chance to share their experience, hear about what others do, feel part of the larger team of volunteers and maybe think about doing more roles in the organization.
Access to training: A volunteer may value being able to attend training for development purposes (this has to be relevant to the delivery of the role so it’s not considered a perk in lieu of payment). This is especially important for volunteers who are looking to develop their CV or boost their employability skills. This can be done face to face or online. Volunteers might value being invited to attend a seminar, convention, or meeting at the organisation’s representative, as it demonstrates to them that they are trusted volunteers.
Volunteer awards: Some organisations nominate volunteers for their in-house awards ceremonies. This could be for team effort, length of time in service, inspiring volunteer or even a life time commitment award. However, it is important if you chose to have awards that you find ways to recognise those who do not get nominated. You should also consider how to recognise volunteers who are not able to attend an awards ceremony. Also look out for local awards, London wide or national awards.
Accommodating needs: Show empathy and try to adapt roles or activities to suit your volunteers. This is most effective when you ask how you can help, instead of implementing change without taking into consideration a volunteer’s views and opinions.
Providing a reference: Sometimes you may be requested to provide a reference for a volunteer if they are moving into paid work, education or another volunteering role.
(With thanks to Volunteer Scotland)
Volunteer’s Week provides an opportunity to celebrate and thank your volunteers. Read more about it and download resources.
The Value You reward card, free to organisations and volunteers. A great way to say thanks to volunteers who have given over 100hrs of their time.
As I so often say… giving enough time to support your volunteers is vital. Rushing, cutting them short or cancelling appointments does not show respect. Time spent having a cup of tea is not a break it’s building your relationship with your volunteers.