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~ April 2006 ~ Topics

Make the Most of Awards
Types of Volunteers – It About More Than Traditional Volunteering

Making the Most of Awards

Do you have certificates of award languishing in your drawer? Did a volunteer just get an award from another organization or his/her employer? Did your program win an award? It is likely you answered yes to one or more of those questions. Here are some tips to make the most of awards, to benefit the organization, the volunteer program, and individuals.

  • Put an "advertisement-like" announcement in the organizational newsletter telling about the award—who received, why, name, etc. And thank anyone who helped get the award.
  • Send out a press release to local media about the award.
  • Throw a party for receiving the award. If it is an individual, keep it low key. If it is for the program make it a big deal.
  • Get it announced on the website with lots of background information.
  • Put it in annual report on the volunteer program.
  • If there is a certificate or plaque, put it where the most number of people will see it.
  • For an organizational award, try to have it included on the website.
  • Send notes to individuals congratulating him/her on the award. If a group made an award happen, thank them all.

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the Short-Term Volunteer Program, by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Miinue Answer Book

Types of Volunteers – It About More Than Traditional Volunteering

Nancy Macduff, Mary Merrill, Ellen Netting, and Mary Catherine O’Connor began work last November on a new way of looking at the types of volunteering that is being done around the world. It was clear to the four colleagues that the "traditional" volunteering done by many over several decades was being joined by new forms of volunteering. Managers of volunteers were finding it more and more difficult to find people to do the traditional tasks and stay for years.

Over the next four issues, I will introduce a Multi-Paradigm Model of Volunteering that includes the traditional type of volunteer and suggests three other ways in which individuals are seeking to volunteer. There will be definitions of types, what characterizes the various types, and suggestions on how to recruit and manage volunteers. The Multi-Paradigm Model of Volunteering is a work in progress and comments from readers are warmly welcomed. (mba@bmi.net)

What Are People Doing Now?

A man in Arizona decides the Border Patrol needs help with preventing people from sneaking into the US. In one month he forms an organization called the Minutemen and is joined by almost 1000 volunteers. His concept spreads and is replicated in Washington State, along its northern land border and water border in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Hundreds of volunteers sign on within a month. In Japan over 500,000 citizens volunteer to patrol the streets in cars with blue lights in order to control crime.

A nurse in New York cannot get the Red Cross or other aid agencies to send her as a volunteer to Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. She knows medical personnel are needed and eventually hooks up with others who want to go and cannot find a sponsor. She spends her vacation in a tent treating the sick. Now she is thinking of starting her own aid organization.
A young man in Ohio realizes that poor people can sure use computers, but can rarely afford them, and no organization is out there giving away computers to individuals. He gathers a group of "techie" friends and starts finding cast off computers, repairing them, and giving them to the impoverished.
Home churching is growing at break neck speed. Sometimes under the auspices of a denomination, but usually not. Individuals are hosting religious services in their homes, holding communion services, praying for the sick, and providing the services and activities of more formally organized faith institutions. There are no paid staff or clergy involved. Everyone is a volunteer.
Employee volunteer programs continue to grow in numbers participating, and companies sponsoring such groups. The service is often a once or twice offering of volunteer labor to a participating organization.
More volunteers are asking for assignments of their own design or that are short lived. Individuals willing to make long-term commitments are harder to find than hen's teeth. And the corps of traditional volunteers is aging in place.

A review of news stories, Internet resources, and the reports of managers of volunteer programs seems to suggest that there are three forms of volunteering that have emerged in greater numbers over the last several years: vigilante, serendipitous, and entrepreneurial. Their existence creates challenges for nonprofit organizations and volunteer programs. In many case activities are done outside the framework of existing nonprofit and voluntary organizations. And those who try to design their own volunteer positions within organizations can be discouraged or thwarted, depending on the organization's "risk tolerance."

As you read through these brief definitions of the three "newer" forms of volunteering you will no doubt think, "Well, those aren't so new. They have been around forever." And you would be right. But the emphasis in nonprofit organizations and volunteer programs has been on the traditional volunteers, so the vast majority of people who volunteered in formal ways did it in traditional modes. Today, volunteers are not content with only being allowed to volunteer in one way, so they are inventing new ways to behave altruistically.

Managers of volunteers need to recognize these new modes of giving, determine how best to include people with motivations and needs different from the traditional volunteer, and once the person begins to develop practical strategies to maintain oversight while the volunteer works. More on this in subsequent articles.


  • Vigilante Volunteers
    • These volunteers take things into their own hands. They are change and action oriented. Conflict is not a problem for them, and can sometimes be a motivator. (Example, Minutemen project in Arizona and Washington State.)
  • Serendipity or Occasional Volunteers
    • Serendipity is associated with a spontaneous, impulsive action that often leads to an unexpected benefit. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines serendipity as the phenomena of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. These volunteers want to create, change, and/or interpret the world, with an emphasis on the qualitative ways in which the work is done. (Example, some home churching volunteers might fall in this category.)
  • Entrepreneurial Volunteers
    • Entrepreneurs organize, manage and assume the risks of a voluntary undertaking. They invent new programs or services. Their interest is in radical change from current practice. Quality of the change and its affect are crucial. (Example, the man rebuilding computers for the poor.)

Next month—More on Vigilante Volunteers. How do they fit in an organization? How can I recruit and manage these types of volunteers?

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The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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