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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ March/April 2006 ~

Fun and Easy Recognition For All
Online Recognition Resources
Recognition is Not Meaningful If It's...

Dear Readers:

This year National Volunteer Week is April 23-29. Don't miss this opportunity to do something unique to recognize the important contributions your volunteers make to your organization. Even if you have a gala banquet already planned or no plans at all, this special week is the perfect time to do something memorable for your volunteers.

Get other staff members involved in the efforts so that this doesn't become your show! Ask them to write personal notes to the volunteers they work with and be willing to help them with their prose. Or, ask them to help you plan and execute a recognition event. Or, ask them to come up with a theme for recognition you're already planning. In other words, share the wealth with your colleagues!

Fun and Easy Recognition For All

Recognition doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to take a lot of time to prepare, nor does it have to be formal. It does need to be sincere and often. Some of the least expensive and easiest forms of recognition can be found right in your grocery store. Here are some ideas that have proven successful for many years.

    • Tree seedlings or flower seed packets – "Thanks for helping us grow"
    • Paper clips or a glue stick – "Thanks for holding us together"
    • M & M candies – "Thanks for being Marvelous and Motivated volunteers"
    • Lifesaver candies – "You're a "lifesaver" for our organization
    • Candy mints – "We care a 'mint' about you" or "Thanks for helping us raise a 'mint'"
    • Ruler or tape measure – "Your contributions are immeasurable"
    • Party whistles – "Let's celebrate our success"
    • Package of batteries – "Thanks for energizing us"
    • Stick of chewing gum – "Thanks for sticking with us [or with this project]"
    • Flash light – "Your vision is our guiding light"

Now use your own creativity and think of a few more! If you have difficulty, walk around the grocery store, look at all the products available, and see what you can create as some recognition plays on words. Hint: The candy aisle is a good place to start. You will find volunteer "Paydays, $100,000 Bars," etc.

If you are conducting a planning meeting or leading a discussion group, you can use some of these forms of recognition to set the tone for the meeting. Pass around several small baskets of goodies as you open the meeting, explain their meaning, enjoy the chuckles, and start your meeting off in a positive direction. Goodies to include are:

    • M & M's for being Motivated members and for all the Marvelous and Meaningful ideas they are going to create;
    • Snickers for the laughter everyone will enjoy;
    • Small boxes of raisins for those who raise some difficult questions or issues; and
    • Lifesavers for continuing to bring new life to your organization or committee.

You will be surprised at the delighted expressions that these items bring to your group members and just how this can increase the productivity of a meeting!

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Online Recognition Resources

Looking for lapel pins, posters, gifts, or more ideas? Here's my list of favorite Internet sites that meet every need:

http://www.pinsource.com offers every type of lapel pin imaginable.
http://www.thankscompany.com has a wide selection of gifts, pins, posters, etc., starting at under $1.

http://www.energizeinc.com/ideas.html Susan Ellis provides links to these recognition resources:

  • Banquets and Parties with a Twist
  • Out-of-the-Ordinary Gifts
  • Awards/Special Acknowledgment to Volunteers
  • Trips and Outings
  • Learning Opportunities as Thanks
  • Holiday Events as Recognition Opportunities
  • Involving Families and Employers
  • Ongoing and Informal Ways to Say Thank You
  • Community-wide Events
  • National Volunteer Week Celebrations
  • International Volunteer Day Celebrations
http://www.nc4h.org/volunteers/recognition/quotes.php This National 4-H site provides an invaluable list of quotes about volunteers and volunteerism from world leaders, authors, artists, celebrities, and more.
http://www.volunteergifts.com offers a wide range of pins, tote bags, mugs, posters, and more.
http://www.voluncheer.com offers everything from apparel to stationery and totes to rubberstamps.
http://www.pub47.bravenet.com/forum/show.php?usernum=3992171003&cpv=1 A unique Volunteer Recognition Ideas Forum.
http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/seasons/nvw/recognize.cfm Points of Light Foundation offers planning information, a tool kit, and unique recognition ideas.

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Recognition is Not Meaningful If It's . . .

Recognition is Not Meaningful If It's... Always planned in advance... What about a spontaneous coffee break or pizza party?
Always the job of the volunteer program manager... What about having a committee with responsibility for reward and recognition activities?
Always done in traditional ways... What about sending email messages or yard sign that says, "An Important Volunteer Lives Here?"
Always one annual event... Why not more frequent smaller events with less expensive mementos?
Always a celebration of work-related milestones... Why not personal achievements or for no reason at all?
Always planned during a big event... What about having a committee to plan a year long series of recognition and reward activities (and just throw in the spontaneous ones.)
Always a repeat of the recognition activities of the year before... What about some creativity, imagination, and new blood?

Adapted from a handout developed by Bonnie Holtmann, United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 2001.

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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