Idea 24: Show your appreciation.

There are many ways to recognize volunteers, both formally and informally. The key is that the recognition should be meaningful to the volunteer. And, that will depend on the volunteer’s motivations.

Regardless, recognition should be sincere, frequent and timely. Many ideas exist for volunteer recognition, and some are reasonably priced. And, a free one that everyone appreciates is positive reinforcement and thanks.

Voices from the field:

  • Appreciate your volunteers and show it regularly.
  • Recognize your volunteers – for their time/efforts/dedication – in a variety of ways.
  • These events are vital for the recognition component of volunteer management. We have a “Tutor Recognition Luncheon” every year and it’s something volunteers really look forward to.
  • I should also say that we treat our volunteers well. They are given a gift at the end of the year, invited to attend our graduation ceremony and generally treat them like ‘gold’. Recently one of our volunteers fell and broke her ankle. Someone went to visit her with a gift basket and card.
  • We have tried to go out of our way to recognize at least one volunteer per year at our graduation ceremony.
  • Our events are usually quite small and informal. They are usually in-service trainings with a social component, or a tutor/learner social event where we buy a sandwich and fruit platter and beverages.

To learn more:

Baudville. (2012). Volunteer appreciation. Retrieved from
» Links to lots of ideas on volunteer appreciation that is meaningful.

Cravens, J. (2011). Recognizing online volunteers and using the Internet to honor ALL volunteers. Retrieved from
» Advice on recognizing volunteers, including specific ideas for recognizing online volunteers and ideas for using the Internet to honour all volunteers.

Gotlieb, L. (2011). Re-energizing volunteer recognition. Retrieved from
» Offers ideas for formal and informal recognition.

MacDonald, R. & Cosburn, J. (2005). Literacy volunteers: value added toolkit. Barrie, Ont.: Community Literacy Ontario.
» This comprehensive resource includes a section on research and best practice in volunteer recognition. While it recognizes that a special event is not appropriate for all volunteers, it includes a detailed event planning checklist for when a special event is a good idea.

Volunteer Canada. (n.d.). Recognition. Retrieved from
» Offers descriptions of recognition programs that typically don’t work and recognition programs that typically work, along with ten guidelines for recognition. Includes a section on helpful hints.

Voo, A. & Kaattari, J. (2010). Literacy volunteers: value added: recognition ideas. Retrieved from
» Lots of ideas for informal and formal recognition, ideas to celebrate collective accomplishments, ideas for using Web 2.0 for volunteer recognition.

Last updated: June 28, 2012