Why is recognising volunteers important?
The reason why we need to think hard about recognition is a simple one. Everybody enjoys being thanked and when a person is working for no other reason than to help out and possibly get some work experience, that thank you is even more important.
Keeping the volunteers you have is easier than recruiting new ones. Therefore making sure the bases are covered should take priority as it will definitely improve your retention and help with recruitment.
Research does show that paid employees need to receive thanks every seven days to feel engaged. It’s no different for volunteers.
Make it part of your club culture to always thank your Volunteers, so they hear it from many parts of the organisation (e.g. staff, board/committee members, players, other volunteers). This holds true for every sports organisation that needs volunteers, from the smallest community-based club to the large regional sports body.
Key points to remember:
- Recognition is closely related to an organisation’s ability to retain volunteers.
- Volunteers like to see how their contributed to positive impact. Stories that acknowledge the impact of a volunteer’s work are very powerful tools that can assist with recognition and recruitment
We recommend you have a plan that ensures your volunteers are recognised and rewarded, which contains and outlines the actual steps you will take to do so.
This should outline how, when, and by what method you will recognise volunteers. Your Recognition Plan can consist of three parts:
1. Recognition Plan Overview
- Outlines how you will stick to your plan, who you will thank, how you will thank them, how you will know who should be thanked, and how you will keep track of who you've thanked.
Download our Recognition Plan Overview Example PDF
2. Recognition Plan Template
- Details Name, Role, Hours worked, Achievement, and Recognition for each volunteer you want to thank.
Download our Recognition Plan Template Example PDF
3. Recognition Plan Calendar.
- Schedules who you thanked, why you thanked them, and what you did for each month of the calendar year.
Download our Recognition Calendar Example PDF
A thorough recognition plan will include all three parts, however incorporating any of the above into your Volunteer Plan is a great step in the right direction!
Even without a plan, keeping the need to say thank you front of mind is an important step.
There is almost too much information on ways to recognise volunteers. Google alone will throw up hundreds of pages so we’ve saved you some time by listing some ideas below.
Importantly, most are very easy and even clubs/organisations with small budgets can do some of them. Remember though, spending some money on recognition pays off if the voluntary work would otherwise have to be done by paid staff.
Ask your volunteers what they want
- Volunteers do so for a variety of motivations, so the same mode of recognition for all volunteers will not be appropriate in all situations. Take the time to ask your volunteers how it is they would like to be thanked.
Make it personal
- Recognition should be authentic, personalised, and appropriate to the achievement.
Set realistic standards
- Make sure whatever standards for recognition you establish can be consistently maintained and applied by your Organisation/Club in the years to come.
- Transparency is the key when it comes to giving awards. It needs to be clear to all why a volunteer received recognition, in this way, at this time, and why others did not.
Keep it relevant
- Be timely. Delaying until weeks or months afterwards could diminish the value of your gratitude.
- When considering your volunteer pool, don’t forget to include the Board/Committee members as they're probably volunteers also.
- It is a very good idea to tell individual stories also (but check with the volunteer first). A Volunteer of the Month award could be a way to do this, and/or a Volunteer of the Year award.
Recognise other successes
- If a volunteer is recognised by an outside body such as your RSO or Lotto SportMakers, then make a big deal of it internally.
Keep a record
- It's important to keep track of who you recognised, why and how you rewarded them. This record could easily be part of your member database however. You could also maintain a calendar.
Follow the links below to see examples of best practice, tips on how to recognise your volunteers, and more.
Check out our articles about recognising volunteers
Time to change our volunteer awards in sport
A Look At Volunteer Recognition
There are lots of simple ways to recognize volunteers, from simply saying thank you to sharing their story.
Consider some of the options below as inspiration for how you can recognize your volunteers:
- Simply saying thank you (often).
- Tell stories of impact about your volunteers.
- A club BBQ at the start or end of the season
- Acknowledgements and/or profile in the comms (newsletters, website, Facebook, Twitter).
- Reduced membership fees.
- Reduced price prize-giving tickets.
- Allocate sponsor gifts to volunteers.
- A specific award at the end of year prize giving.
- Items of uniform clothing to show affiliation to the organisation.
- Christmas and birthday cards/acknowledgements.
- Recognition from peers in the club.
- Recognition in the committee minutes.
- A letter of reference for your volunteers at the end of the season.
- A Lotto SportMaker nomination.
- A nomination for a regional award
An effective and engaging way to recognize your volunteers is through video. Although the concept of video may seem daunting at first, it doesn't have to be.
Not all video's have to be 5-minute case studies. Some can be as simple as a 30 second slideshow of photos, or compilation clips of people saying "thank you" to a volunteer you want to recognize.
For more information, check out our resource on creating engaging videos with your smartphone
More volunteer resources
Research and Planning Resources
Developing Culture Resources
Can't find what you're looking for? Or want some more specialized volunteer advice?