Posted June 25, 2000
Submitted by Christine Vigil, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Volunteer Coordinator , Commerce City, Colorado
At our annual banquet, we had our volunteers briefly discuss their funniest or most embarrasing moment at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR. We also provided Memory cards on the table for volunteers too shy to speak. It was a big hit! Many volunteers commented on the opportunity to be part of the entertainment instead of being just a gracious guest!
Posted June 21, 2000
Submitted by Elizabeth, Cultural Heritage Center, South Dakota
I agree that the sit down dinner and speech thing needs a bit of tweeking. I have about 100 volunteers and 99% of them are seniors. I would like to do a recognition this fall with an apple/harvest theme-any ideas?
Posted June 20, 2000
Submitted by Linda Hamilton, Volunteer Program Supervisor at The Crayola FACTORY and National Canal Museum at Two Rivers Landing, Pennsylvania, USA
Our organization must be doing something right. Our volunteer recognition dinner is a highly looked forward to event, attended by men, women, teens, seniors and in-betweeners alike. Staff attends and never "bunch together" - they mingle during the lively social hour preceeding the dinner and are sure that each table ultimately has a few staff members. Lot's of staff members are part of the recognition dinner committee - it is the largest committee at our facility, a large family discovery center and museum. I really think that is the key - our staff talk this event up, are intimately involved in the planning and make sure it is well attended and great fun. While we begin meeting in spring for the fall event, it is not the focus of the year. We have plenty of ongoing recognition but the dinner is an important night to many people.
Submitted by Marsha Riddle, Western Carolina Center, North Carolina
Recognition is different for everyone and in my 35 years in volunteer management I have found that it means something different to everyone. Since it is impossible to do everything, our program has long recognized youth at the end of the summer with activities and an event that they have a part in planning. For our senior volunteers, food is a must. For the bands that participate in our annual Christmas parade, recognition is done best in the school and at the time best for each band director, including at their annual evening concert when parents and friends are present. Trying to make recognition what the volunteer would like is a difficult and varying task, but is just as important as the various efforts we all do to find volunteers. Targeted recruitment, I think we call it. How about targeting our recognition as well.
Submitted by Elizabeth Ellis, Face to Face Health and Counseling Service, Inc., Minnesota
I feel that having a "Volunteer Recognition Week" somewhat sets up volunteer programs/agencies who enlist volunteers, and presents a need for planning events such as banquets, pins and certificates. During my career as a Volunteer Coordinator, I have moved from focusing on Annual Events (food, certificates, music, invitations, cost, time and hoopla) to re-focusing on daily (personalized), weekly (articles, webpage and memos in volunteer mail boxes) and monthly (Birthdays, anniversaries, calls) ways to recognize volunteers. Within the organizations I have worked, volunteer events have not had the kind of turnout I would hope and so I use the National Volunteer Recognition Week dates to highlight and display volunteer involvement throughout the agency by displaying pictures, posting quotes from staff stating the ways they have worked with volunteers over the year, hanging banners with words of appreciation, "Kuddos" to volunteers and sometimes personal and funny statements to what individual volunteers add to our organization, services and offer clients.
When planning events, I know it is important to reach individual volunteers in the way that will most satisfy and fulfill their personality and style. Some people enjoy their name "in lights", or at least in the monthly newsletter. Others, would benefit from a personalized letter to their CEO for acknowledging their support in encouraging their staff involvement in the community. Different ages sometimes are eligible for different forms of recognition, such as scholarships and certificates from the President etc... I feel strongly that it is important not to feel a failure for not hosting a huge gala during Volunteer Recognition. We, as Volunteer Coordinators, shouldn't feel in competition with our events for volunteers and # of turnouts, but rather remain focused on the importance on individual and personalized recognition of how volunteers contribute to our cause, services and mission. Volunteers can even feel recognized for a proper match to a role, being given the opportunity to offer feedback on their position, responsibilities or quality of training or invited to branch into other areas of assistance due to their skills, knowledge and learned talents. There are many ways to recognize volunteers and none of them should be belittled due to "turn-out". Also, it is important for staff to be involved with on-going recognition and appreciation of volunteers. It sets a wonderful environment and welcome to interested and involved volunteers. Keep up the good work!
Submitted by Tom Rinkoski, Director of Volunteer Services, Diocese of Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Right on Sister! I work with religious congregations who ritually put on annual "volunteer appreciation" bashes complaining the whole time of the work they take and the poor attendance they get as a result. And although I must admit to enjoying the opportunity to be "the after dinner mint" as you deliciously express it, I, too am surprised they don't catch the irony in my presence. Loved your suggestions for tweaking these events.
Submitted by Terri Tallman, RSVP-Richland County, Ohio, USA
What a great article on volunteering. As a new Director (1 1/2 years), I have been thinking of ways that I could change from the past practice of a recognition banquet. I did change from a sit down dinner to an afternoon tea this past year and most of the volunteers liked the change. I especially like your ideas about including the volunteers in providing feedback about their year. As a staff of one overseeing 310 volunteers, my time is limited, so I hope you don't mind that I take some of these ideas and utilize them for my great volunteers. Thanks again, you're doing a great job. Terri Tallman, RSVP-Richland County, Ohio.
Submitted by Sherry Franklin, Special Services Coordinator, Indiana
Regarding Recognition of Volunteers.....I am the volunteer coordinator for a Parks and Recreation Department. There are approximately seven different areas that I seek volunteers for. Each month the program staff from all areas submit a volunteer nomination for the month. One individual is selected as the BRAVO recipient. This volunteer invited to attend the Board of Parks Meeting and is then acknowledged by the staff member who nominated them. The meetings are televised on our local PBS. The volunteers come from all walks of life, it is my belief that if we offered a banquet of some sort at the end of the year or even mid year, many of the individuals receiving the BRAVO award would not be present. (The recipients receive a wooden ink pin with our logo on it, value $3 and a nice certificate signed by our Board President and Executive Director)
Submitted by Eve Sisson, Volunteer Service Coordinator, Lee County Parks and Recreation, Florida, USA
We have a very diverse population of volunteers in our Parks and Recreation Department. Placements include environmental activities, programs and camps for children, recreation center assistance, Special Olympics, events and more. We have incorporated all ages of volunteers also. Recognition is indeed a challenge. Because we have so many volunteers (700) and many of them are seasonal, we try for an event-type of recognition in the Spring. We have held the event at our Sports Complex to include dinner, a baseball game and fireworks. The last two years we have held it at one of our Regional Parks to include a picnic and a variety of activities to choose from: free ride on the miniature train, canoe rides, fragrance garden tours. Next year I am considering an ice cream social with entertainment. We do nametags for everyone who attends with their volunteer worksite. We do not give certificates or awards. I encourage that in the individual programs and we do support that activity. We also have an incentive program where volunteers can "buy" certain items with their collective hours of contribution over a one year period. I feel this gives those volunteers who really commit a lot of time, something special for their contribution. It has worked very well for us. Each item has our logo and the word "volunteer" imprinted on it, so it becomes a form of promotion for our program also. I consider this on-going recognition.
Submitted by Beth Aune, Visitor Services Coordinator, North Dakota
Because many of my volunteers are senior citizens and most likely live alone, I have added potlucks prior to public programs. It serves two purposes, fellowship with other volunteers, and gives us a built in audience for programs. Those who participated were not likely to attend because they didn't have someone to go with. Two problems solved with one idea!
Submitted by Joan Brown, Coord., Civic Center Volunteers, Marin County, CA.
During National Vol. Week we also recognized the PAID Supervisor of Volunteers. It recognizes the importance of the partnership and the value of excellent supervision and training. When a volunteer successfully completes their contract, they receive a Resolution of Commendation from the Board of Supervisors which specifically describes their characteristics and the job they did. It #1 recognizes the vol. #2 educates the top decision makers #3 creates press opportunities.
Submitted by Cynthia McConniel, Volunteer HELP!Line Manager, South Dakota USA
What a great topic. If you have volunteers that cannot attend the banquet, then technically they do not get recognized. Certificates are nice and cheap, but have you ever gone into someone's house and seen their volunteer certificates actually hang on a wall? When I first started working in disaster, the governor very thoughtfully took the time to send every volunteer that gave their name and address a form letter and a poor quality hat. The part that was sad that my father-in-law who was part of a volunteer fireman's team that never even went to respond to the call also got the same hat. Not that they shouldn't have gotten recognition for all of the hundreds of things they do all of the rest of the time,but the fact that people who didn't deserve the recognition were also getting it was deflating the purpose of the recognition.
We do several volunteer recognition things for free especially during April. We run a big color ad in our local paper. Each agency pays $50 to be part of the ad. It is not full page, but pretty close. We also solicit names for our annual Thank-a-thon. Area personalities call volunteers and thank them for all of the work they do at XYZ agency. It is kind of neat for the celebrities and the volunteers. Most of time the volunteers are pretty humble about getting a call because they do not think they do anything that big. Throughout the year, we work with a local am radio station and every Thursday they call a volunteer live on the radio and thank them for all that they do. One of the local flower shops donates a gift certificate for them to redeem at the store at their convenience. I take calls from parents, children, other volunteer leaders, and co-workers most of them are so flattered and for a brief moment they have their 15 seconds of fame. I think we are on the right path though. It looks like we have some volunteer leaders who already come out of the box to see things from a better perspective. Lets keep dragging the rest with us, soon they too will see the light.
Submitted by Carole Maddox, Public Relations Director, ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), Florida, USA
We are a Christian non-profit organization that works to fight hunger by networking ideas, information and seeds. We have over 150 volunteers on our demonstration farm, offices, and giving tours. We have traditionally held our Volunteer Recognition Dinner in March each year before our "snowbird" volunteers fly north for the summer. For years we had a pot luck dinner with ECHO supplying the meat and beverages. This year we did a catered dinner at a local church that provides this service and had the volunteers just bring their favorite dessert. We have a variety show with "talent" from both the staff and volunteer ranks, as well as a looking forward speech from our executive director. We usually get 60-70% attendance. This year our Volunteer Coordinator (who is herself a volunteer) initiated a series of monthly "Brown Bag Info-Lunches" from October through April when the bulk of our volunteers are with us. We had lunch in the pavilion with ECHO supplying the drinks and dessert. During lunch one of the staff shared his/her story of how they came to ECHO and a bit about their background. We then gathered in our Visitor Reception Center for an in-depth presentation from one of the departments. Volunteers were enthusiastic about these lunches. Those who worked in our seedbank found out what happens in the Public Relations Department, farm volunteers learned how the seeds they helped grow were sent to hungry people overseas, etc. We plan to do another series starting in the fall. In addition, the next dinner will feature the International Year of the Volunteer and we plan to ask volunteers and staff to dress in costumes reflecting their countries of origin or favorite places from their travels--optional, of course.
Submitted by Martha Diaz, Guardian Ad Litem Program, Florida
Our organization has a very diverse (in age, culture, professional background) volunteer base, so not all events work for all types of volunteers. We only get about 25 - 35% attendance at our formal function. This year, I've decided to hold four events, one each fiscal quarter: one would be the formal shindig (there are those that still think it's necessary), one is a breakfast meeting (underwritten by one of our vols!!) where volunteers are divided into groups and come up with suggestions on improving the program, a "summer social" that is no-frills, no-speeches and all-fun (where they can invite friends who are prospective volunteers), and a potluck holiday event at the home of one of our staff members. Not everyone will attend everything, but I bet most people will attend something.
Posted June 2, 2000
Submitted by Nancy "Clancy" Clatfelter, City of San Bernardino RSVP Director, California, USA
I think you're absolutely right! Too much time spent on the same ol'-same ol'! The food is usually the same (while it may taste great, how many chicken luncheons can one person go to in a year?) and we rack our brains every year trying to come up with something new and innovative for our entertainment (this year we didn't have any...used the extra time to give away more door prizes...volunteers for our group tend to be mercenary when it comes to getting a winning ticket). We also split the events; holding one in May and then a Holiday Social in the first week of December. One of our best was our Holiday Hop...we brought in a Kareoke (sp?) machine and let them get up and lead the group in Christmas Caroling...what a great experience...we had a hard time getting them to stop so the facility could lockup. I'm always looking for alternatives for recognition and you made me think of a few. Thanks.
Posted May 31, 2000
Submitted by J King, Coordinator, Volunteer Program, California
I am the coordinator for a military base volunteer program and this year for the second in a row I was told to put together the "Annual Base Volunteer Recognition Event" which is meant to thank the various base volunteers all at one time. This group includes 850-900 volunteers from 11 various organizations throughout the base so size is a problem.
We send out invites, get perhaps 200-250 RSVP's that attend for a "coffee" type event where they sit at tables and await certificates to be handed to them. Result was fine to the upper management but boring to the attendees who complained of feeling lost in the crowd. Cost is a major factor for the base since the military isn't exactly wallowing in extra funds and we can't ask for donations outside the base.
This year I did try to get the volunteer organizations to participate by setting up information tables with highlights of what their volunteers have done throughout the year. The result was better but still had a "cookie cutter" effect. I would like to start now for next year (they will only authorize one event a year for this program) but could use any fresh ideas to incorporate what might appeal to a military community that is fairly transient and is packed with the usual sit down events and pageantry.
Response to above:
Submitted by Lillian Gattis, Wichita Festivals, Inc., Kansas
I have some of the same problems as the military volunteers in that we have some 5000 volunteers so size is a problem. We are a 30 years old, ten day festival that takes planning year round. We have a staff of seven to run this organization with a 27 member board of directors. The bulk of our volunteers work for us in April and May. I like the idea of doing something perhaps three times a year to remind them that we are thinking of them all year long, not just in April and May when we need them. This year I am having a Monte Carlo night with free food, games, awards and prizes. This occurs approximately one month after close of the festival. Again like any other organization only about 30% attend. To add to this the organization is thinking about adding another festival in the fall whack will mean more recognition for the volunteers. Any idea from other festivals or organizations who have massive numbers of volunteers would be appreciated.