National Volunteer Week — 15 ways to thank volunteers

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 third article in a four-part series about volunteer recognition.

Recognition_Microsoft Word

Recently, I asked a group of society board members from Canada and the US what they do to thank their volunteers. The first responses were: “We don’t do much,” “We don’t do enough,” and “We’re interested to learn what others do.” And then, the ideas started to flow.

Here are 15 ways to recognize and thank our volunteers.

  1. Designate someone to be responsible for volunteer recognition and to meet with a group of your volunteers to discuss the type of recognition they would like to receive. Or ask volunteers to complete a questionnaire about the type of recognition they want.
  2. Recognize and thank volunteers throughout the year on a frequent and informal basis.
  3. Send a thank you note to each volunteer, personally signed by the president.
  4. Honour retiring volunteers with a certificate.
  5. Publish the names of all the volunteers in the newsletter. Put an asterisk beside those who have volunteered more than five years.
  6. Share stories of exceptional volunteers in each newsletter. Focus on the impact these volunteers made and how members benefit from their contribution.
  7. Create a Volunteer of the Year award to recognize a volunteer who made a significant contribution to the society during the past year.
  8. Let volunteers earn an annual membership by donating a specified number of hours on board-approved projects. If this is too costly for your society, draw two or three names out of a hat.
  9. Hold a potluck supper for all volunteers.
  10. Invite volunteers to a catered lunch at which each volunteer will receive a gift. Invite someone from the city and/or local library or archives to thank the volunteers.
  11. Hold a Volunteer Appreciation Day, inviting all volunteers to attend. Present these volunteers with a token gift, such as a mug, pen, or a coupon for 25 percent off next year’s membership. Hold a draw for one or two larger prizes. Remember to take a group photo.
  12. After a volunteer has contributed more than 100 hours of service, order a book of their choosing for the library with the volunteer’s name inscribed inside the cover. (In one society, the librarian maintains a volunteer list to track the hours. This list also helps the board know when the society is busiest.)
  13. Invite a speaker to talk at the monthly meeting about how s/he has been affected by your volunteers.
  14. Say thanks by creating a slide show featuring photos from the past year of your volunteer action. Show the slide show at monthly meetings and at the annual conference.
  15. Announce important milestones, such as the number of volunteer hours attained by an individual or a project completed. Promote the milestones on your website and in your newsletter.

More ideas can be found on Pinterest and by Googling “volunteer appreciation” and “volunteer recognition.”

In Canada, there are a number of award programs at the national, provincial, and local levels, listed on Volunteer Canada’s website.

Tomorrow, in the final article in this series, I will discuss recruiting and retaining volunteers.

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

Part 2: — How volunteers want to be recognized

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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