Volunteer recognition isn't just about money

Charitable foundations depend on volunteers. Nonprofits may be limited in the amount of money they have to spend on less measurable aspects of the organization; however, a recent joint study from Volunteer Canada and Investors Group found the best practices in volunteer recognition may not actually involve any additional funding.

Derived from two national surveys, data from the joint study showed more than 80 percent of nonprofit respondents admitted the most common barrier to adequately recognizing volunteer workers is budget constraints. Organizations across the board expressed a desire to thank the helping hands that keep their respective nonprofits afloat, but most believe proper recognition comes at a hefty price. This is a mistake.

Of the volunteer respondents, 80 percent said their preferred form of recognition would be to simply be made aware of how their efforts have made a difference. Another 70 percent said even being informally thanked in a personal, ongoing way was enough to satisfy them.

"This important new research will assist non-profit organizations to improve volunteer retention," Trevor Kahn, associate manager of community affairs, Investors Group, said in a press release. "The findings will provide them with a greater understanding of how volunteers want to be recognized, so that their volunteer programs - which are essential for building healthy communities - can become even better."

How to recognize 
Slowly, charitable foundations are moving away from the more traditional, annual banquet style of volunteer recognition, and instead ebbing towards a more ongoing strategy. The following are a series a best practices as it pertains to recognizing volunteers:

Prioritize
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the nonprofit industry, and recognizing their work is paramount in securing future support. Every organizations needs at least one staff member dedicated to ensuring ongoing volunteer recognition - even something as simple and quick as a sincere "Thank you!"  Appreciation should come in a variety of ways - something like an awards ceremony or allowing an affected member of the community to speak about how the organization has helped him or her.

Focus on the volunteer
Celebrating the work done by volunteers is important. But a key part of properly recognizing volunteers is discerning between the work and the worker. Phrase appreciation in a way to acknowledge the individual contributions of the person. Instead of saying "good job," perhaps say "you did a good job." Let them know they're more than just faceless drones raising money for charity

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