It's a huge thank you from me - and a great big lot of thanks from them

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By suevjones on
learning, networking, ttvolmgrs, volunteer centres and volunteer management 305 views 0 likes 10 comments

Several years ago when I first started out desiging and delivering training for volunteer managers, I noticed there appeared to be a set of training subjects related to managing volunteers that were consistent.

You know the ones I mean: Support and Supervision, Handling Problem Volunteers (!!), (I need a separate blog post for this title), Volunteers and the Law - and this one - Recognising and Rewarding Volunteers.  In my naivety and in wanting to give people what they said they wanted - I fell into the pattern of offering these topics too.  And this was OK for a while.  But over time, I realised things were changing and that we had the opportunity to develop our thinking further - much further!  And this is what I want to focus on for this week's Thoughtful Thursday.

I think I've said before that I'm delighted and proud to say that there has been lots of change and development for volunteer management over the last ten years.  And yet, in many ways - some things are still the same - and what I mean is that we are still stuck in our thinking about how we approach this stuff.  I know I can be too.  But that's what's great about something like Thoughtful Thursday and the other brilliant ways we can connect, learn and share in order to develop ourselves and the profession.  We can take time out to challenge oneanother in a way that is not too scary and encourages us to reflect and make changes.

Indeed, one of the things that hasn't changed so much is that I still get asked to deliver training on Recognising and Rewarding Volunteers, and this baffles me.  Why?  Are we really so unimaginative that we need a training course to help us think up ways to say thank you?  I'm not saying there's no mileage in getting together with others to thrash ideas around and to gain some inspiration - of course we need to do that, but the problem is that I know from experience that people will come to training like this with the expectation that there's a formula, a set of approaches that Good Practice says they need to follow in order to say thank you to their volunteers.  And for me, this is where I think we need to step beyond the guide books and toolkits and consider just what it is we're doing here.

We need our structures and our processes in volunteer management.  They give us a framework and something to pin things on - plus they help to gain that all important buy-in across the rest of the organisation.  But, we need to put the people, the volunteers, back at the heart of what we're doing, because without them - we can't deliver! In many ways, our success as a volunteer manager and leader lies in the simplicity of developing effective and true interactions with our volunteers.  Getting to know them.  Building relationships.  Seeing them as individuals - not just as a group or a label.  And, for some brilliant inspiration on this subject, I'd like you to check out  DJ Cronin's recent blog post where he talks about the ART of 'paying' volunteers - highlighting our true currency and therefore our approach.  He refers to the ART as "Acknowledgement, Respect and Thanks".  And that's it!  Really simple, yet brilliantly effective.

Which brings me back to Thoughtful Thursday and our focus for this week as we lead in to the start of Volunteers Week tomorrow.  A week where amongst other things, we often take specific time out to thank our volunteers and this type of recognition is important.  However, let's make sure we don't fall into the trap of recognition being just about a particular week or another topic on a training course.  Let's also remember to do this stuff as a natural part of the way we lead and manage and we're interested to hear about how you do this.

To help get you started - perhaps you have your own acronym  - as inspired by DJ's ART blog for thanking volunteers?  If so - please share it with us. Or, perhaps you'd like to capture the true essence of what you believe it's all about in 140 characters via twitter using the hash tag #ttvolmgrs  As usual, full expanded thoughts can be shared right here on ivo using the comments section below.

And, to keep things connected - make sure you check out Volunteering England's Volunteers Week twitter chat tomorrow too!

We look forward to hearing from you -  learning and sharing in this amazing, modern, innovative and interesting way! (No formal training course required)...

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Top answer

good !!!

Last night, I made certificates of appreciation for all of our volunteers, put up posters thanking them for their contribution to the service and made bunting and paper chains to decorate the workspace. This morning I filled bowls with sweets and left them everywhere. It's just a teeny tiny public acknowledgement of how I value my volunteering colleagues, designed to highlight volunteers' week. I have worked with people who think it is patronising to do stuff like that, but I hope that volunteers know me well enough to accept their certicates with pride and scoff the sweets with relish because they are genuine acts of appreciation on my part.

Eddie

Hey sounds brill, love it - I know I would love that to happen to me as a volunteer.

suevjones

Great comment @scotchmist and I am sure they all do because it is as you say - genuine appreciation. And I suppose it doesn't matter what you do or how you do it - it's a matter of adopting some authenticity into your role as a leader. Showing appreciation and saying thank you because you believe it, and because you want to. And, because you truly understand and value
their contribution.

One of the things I talk about with paid staff who work with volunteers is the difference between Thanking and Appreciating. Saying "thank you" to a volunteer (or anyone, really) is a good start but, to really show someone you appreciate them, it's important to follow up with something specific. For example, "Thank you for all the hard work you put into organizing this project. I know it took a lot of time and I'm grateful for your attention to detail to make this project a success." It doesn't take much more time to say, and it has a greater impact.

After attending a training last year that included this style of appreciation, I've been working to build it into my regular interaction with volunteers, other paid staff, friends, and family. It can be really challenging -- especially if I'm in a rush or busy or what-have-you -- but it makes a difference.

Absolutely, positively agree with all you say here, Sue -- and with DJ, too.

A key point is that volunteer recognition is everyone's job in an organization, not just that of the volunteer manager. Friendliness on a daily basis, common courtesy such as thank yous, etc. have to come from the people who work with the volunteer on the front line. That's something VMs need to teach -- beyond focusing on "events."

There are those that need the reward and recognition classes - this for me is the difference between being a VM and a great VM! controversial I know but that is my experience in meeting many VMs.
Saying thank you should be every time a person gives up their valuable time to help others or a cause in some way not just 1 week of the year. don't get me wrong I love volunteers week and the excuse to celebrate - love a parti- and at least the week is a highlight to those not in the know to make a note there is a week but sad that they don't say thank you anyway.
I tell them in the training touching on recognition and reward, that it doesn't have to be a big gesture or just once a year, some volunteers don't like this they are just happy with a word of thanks but do it often and get used to saying it every time because this is an element of volunteer retainment and attraction.
For another project I worked on I logged each volunteer's birthday and on their birthday sent them a personalised card from me with thanks in, it wasn't hard or difficult to do but they really appreciated it.
Any project I am involved in now it is a constant recognition & thank you for the short time it runs by bringing in home made cake for them, taking them out for a cuppa, getting them goodies - yep I'm cheap but they really enjoy it.
One year my volunteers helped to win a National award in volunteering as part of CSV Make a difference day many many many years ago when award ceremonies were held. To say thank you to all of them I got free hire of the local cinema we did up as the project, got a free film - The Blues Brothers, brought them all chocolate medals, printed off certificates and invited the owner of the cinema plus the Town Mayor to say a few words and present the Chocolate medals to all, then had drinks and watched the film - it was a brilliant thank you present the likes I may not get a chance to do again but no matter how small or big it is just nice to have a thank you.
So this year I've been thanked by my volunteers because they are not around for Volunteers week, Why you may ask? because they are now employed - yippee, gone off to London to take part in programmes there, double yippee or unfortunately are currently in hospital - not yippee but I go in and give them a laugh at least But they have all remembered this time of year is volunteers week - too well trained and informed!- turned around the tables and gave me a card of thanks. Small tear forming. love them.

jennyabeba

Ooh, yes, the times that volunteers have turned round and thanked *me* have been some of the most moving moments for me!!

Eddie

my most moving one that had me in tears was a group who couldn't cook, were heavily medicated and couldn't handle a knife - after 6 classes they made me a meal as a thank you - I cried all the way through, it was so emotional and will never forget it.

Eddie

Heloo jennyabeba see you found me here then under my blog name!