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Volunteer Canada tells us:

Make it a priority

Recognizing the work of volunteers is crucial for any organization that wants to retain and attract others. Designate someone in your organization to be responsible for ensuring that ongoing recognition of volunteers takes place.

Do it often

Recognition of volunteers should happen on a year-round, frequent and informal basis – begin with saying “Thank you” often!

Do it in different ways

Vary your recognition efforts from the informal thank you and spontaneous treats, to more formal events. Here are some examples:

  • Hold an awards presentation;
  • Invite a speaker to talk about how they have been touched by your volunteers;
  • Treat your volunteers to a performance by a stand-up comic, musician or an improvisational theatre group;
  • Say thanks by creating a slide show featuring photos from the past year of your volunteers in action;
  • Announce important milestones including the number of logged volunteer hours, lives touched, goals met, etc.

Be sincere

Make each occasion to recognize volunteers meaningful and an opportunity to truly reflect on the value that volunteers bring to your organization.

Recognize the person, not the work

It’s best to phrase recognition to emphasize the contribution of the individual and not the end result. “You did a great job!” as opposed to “This is a great job!”

Make it appropriate to the achievement

For example, a paper certificate accompanied by a private thank you may be appropriate for a few months of service but a public dinner and engraved plaque may better suit 10 years of volunteerism.

Be consistent

Make sure whatever standards of recognition you establish can be consistently maintained by your organization in years to come. Holding a volunteer recognition dinner one year sets up expectation for future volunteers.

Be timely

Try to arrange recognition soon after achievement has been reached – delaying until weeks or months later diminishes the value of your gratitude.

Make it unique

Getting to know each of your volunteers and their interests will help you learn how best to recognize each individual and make them feel special.