National Volunteer Week — How do volunteers want to be recognized?

April 6 marked the beginning of National Volunteer Week in both Canada and the United States. In Australia, National Volunteer Week takes place May 12 – 18, and in the UK, they will recognize their volunteers June 1 – 7. As genealogists, we rely on volunteers’ efforts to help us with our research.

This is the second article in a four-part series about volunteer recognition.

According to a study for Volunteer Canada in partnership with Investors Group, volunteers want recognition that is sincere and authentic. “A passing hustled thanks in the hallway versus an acknowledgement of a volunteer’s contribution and impact can make a significant difference.” The study shows that people appreciate a personalized thank you. Volunteer Canada advises that we should be careful about spending money on gifts. Volunteers who participated in the study said they would prefer to see the money spent on the organization.

While the most common way organizations recognize volunteers is indeed by thanking them in person, 80 percent of the volunteers surveyed said they would like to be recognized by “hearing the impact of their contributions.” Read more about the study here:

There is no shortage of ideas to recognize volunteers. (Just Google “volunteer recognition” and you will see what I mean.) There is often, however, a shortage of time and effort to thank our volunteers and sometimes an unwillingness to do so.

Last year, when I suggested a zero-cost volunteer recognition idea to “Mrs. Smudge,” a long-time society board member, she replied that the board assumed the society’s volunteers already thanked the volunteers who work for them, and that was enough. When a member suggested to her board that they could hold a simple cake and coffee reception to thank volunteers, the response was, “We did that years ago.” The end result in both cases? Nothing was ever done.

Consult your volunteers

So, where do we begin? Let’s start by sitting down with a small group or a cross section of volunteers in our society to ask what they want. Include at least one out-of-town member in this discussion group via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Brainstorming_Microsoft Word

Tomorrow, I will share 15 ways to recognize and thank volunteers.

Part 1: — Should genealogy societies do more to recognize volunteers?

Part 3: — 15 ways to thank volunteers

Part 4: — Recruiting and retaining volunteers

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.

About Gail Dever

Gail Dever is a Montreal-based genealogist and blogger and a webmaster for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
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1 Response to National Volunteer Week — How do volunteers want to be recognized?

  1. Susan Gingras Calcagni says:

    Let’s hope this will generate a positive direction for those willing to listen, and perhaps an eye opener for some.

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