Appreciation – or – Have You Hugged Your Volunteer Today?

Appreciation and recognition are wonderful things. A little bit can go a long way towards showing your employees or volunteers how much you value them and how valuable they are to the team. I will talk directly about employees and volunteers, but this applies to contractors, donors, and even in our personal relationships. A little bit can go a long way!

I could not do my job without an amazing team that helps me out on a daily basis. Each of us has our role and some of us contribute more in certain areas than others, but we are all working together. How do we take time to show our appreciation for this support without interrupting the workflow? There are many simple ways to show your gratitude that won’t break the bank and will allow you to express this.

One of the tools we use at our organization is called ‘planned spontaneous recognition’ or PSRs. We use PSRs to frequently recognize and acknowledge the contributions of specific individuals. By planning a loose schedule of small gifts and recognizing individuals that have gone above and beyond in some fashion, you will have a prompt to stop and recognize your team. Setting a calendar reminder can be one of the ways to remind yourself.

Twice a year, minimum, we throw an appreciation party. This is a great way to show our team that we value their contributions. Food is one of the best ways to bring people together for a shared good time. It also helps us to feel as if we are taking care of the people that take care of us (in this case our volunteers). But we have found that it is not enough to just throw a party, spread the word and hope people come. A personal phone call with sincerely expressed gratitude can actually be more meaningful than any gift or recognition in public.

The point of appreciation is to recognize the contributions of others. Employees, both paid staff and volunteers, have individual motivators and therefore it will be impossible to find one gift that will be appropriate for all. Some are interested in useful gifts like a gift certificate to a local restaurant, while others will want a plaque or monument that shows their accomplishment to the world, for some recognition in front of their peers is important. Still others want more time or money. Finding out the right way to motivate your team can help keep you all on track to reach your goal.

I have heard from several volunteers over the years that so many places that they have worked have not taken the time to show their appreciation. This makes the volunteer end up feeling like simply slave labor! Nobody should feel this way, not a volunteer giving of their time and energy, and not a paid employee.

The type of recognition is not important, or rather the amount you spend is not important, and it may take a few tries to figure out the right way to acknowledge each individual. But what is most important is taking the time to stop and say thank you. Our employees work hard for us and when we acknowledge that effort, we are showing them that we value their efforts as well. So take the time out of your busy schedule to say thank you, give a token gift, or even just hug your volunteer. They will love the recognition and get a boost from your support!

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