Developing an Effective Volunteer Recognition Program

Developing an Effective Volunteer Recognition Program

A team of terrific volunteers are often the unsung heroes in a parks and recreation organization or community centre. While your parks and recreation staff are the people who put together programming and events, volunteers help your staff bring their vision to life. Because they volunteer their time and energy for free to your cause, volunteer recognition goes a long way in appreciating their efforts.

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By consistently building community at your organization, it’ll become even easier to attract volunteers for your organization. Building a strong volunteer recognition program means visible volunteer appreciation so your volunteers feel appreciated, and much more.

Moments of acknowledgement go a long way to show your appreciation for the help you receive. Here are our top ways to recognize your volunteers, and help turn others in community into volunteers.

Identify Your Needs

This is the single most important aspect to attracting volunteers. With so many organizations and charities they could volunteer at, what will make them volunteer for your organization? They must get value. Whether that’s enriching their lives through the experience of the volunteer work or by building up your organization to the point where volunteers will want to add you to their resume, build value for prospective volunteers and they will come.

First, identify exactly what your needs are and where opportunities for volunteerism lie. What parts of the organization would grow with thanks to volunteer hours? How many volunteers do you need? Will your volunteers be required to speak another language? Will recruitment require a budget and will your current operating expenses allow for it? Determining how volunteers can play a meaningful role in your parks and recreation organization will greatly increase your chances of finding the right people for your volunteer program.

Don’t forget to match your volunteer needs with what your community would benefit from. This may be something you can add to your member satisfaction surveys, in order to get a stronger sense of what will make the largest impact. 

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Create a Volunteer Handbook

Having a document that outlines everything – from whether your volunteers need insurance or not, to the dress code – will vastly reduce confusion and extra work, for when you finally acquire your volunteers. Any sort of policy or rule that you create will help govern all volunteer activities and behaviour. The clearer you can be within your volunteer management handbook, the easier it’ll be to lead your volunteers.

There are many reasons volunteers will help out, but the biggest might be for social good. Make sure your organization is doing all it can to create and promote positive change, not only for your employees’ happiness and social wellbeing but also to attract future employees and volunteers. Think of it as a long-term investment in your organization and your community.

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Plan Your Recruitment

Volunteer management requires defining recruitment strategies, timelines, and overall costs for attracting volunteers to your parks and recreation organization is perhaps the most challenging stage of the process. Depending on the type of program you’re seeking volunteers for, you’ll need either generalists or volunteers with a specific set of skills. Correspondingly, this will inform your recruitment and marketing strategies to attract qualified volunteers.

You’ll also need to consider the interview and onboarding process for your volunteer recruitment, and factor in the timeline for conducting background checks. Even though they’re volunteers, it’s important to treat them as you would your staff since they’ll be representing your organization.

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Since your volunteers aren’t getting paid for their time, you have to be even more conscious that they are having a good time when they are there. Keep the environment fun and light-hearted, while encouraging your regular staff to do the same. Don’t forget to give back to your volunteers once in a while. Have a night where you take care of the food and entertainment to say thank you for all of their hard work.

Train, Train, Train

Orientation and training are central components of your volunteer program. Make sure you outline your expectations for the volunteer roles, introduce them to your organization, and demonstrate to your volunteers that you’re on the same team. Creating and executing a structured, positive training course will help you produce great volunteers and community ambassadors.

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If you were someone engaged with your organization, what would make you want to go the extra mile and spend your time volunteering? If that answer isn’t clear, you should spend some time thinking about it. Once you have a list of things that would get you to volunteer, think about how you can provide that at your organization for prospective volunteers.


Show Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and volunteer appreciation is quite important for your recognition program! Volunteers are giving up their precious time, so it is imperative that you consistently show your appreciation for their sacrifices. If a volunteer is making a difference at your organization, it’s in your best interest to keep them motivated and retain them.

Here is a quick list of other ays to promote volunteer appreciation:

  1. Highlight a volunteer of the month
  2. Host a year-end volunteer appreciation party or event with prizes
  3. Run a reward program to thank volunteers
  4. Share biographies of volunteers on social media publicly

Once your volunteer program is in place, let Xplor Recreation’s association management software help you manage all aspects of your facility’s operations, marketing, and financing. By reducing time spent on back-office functions, supervisors, staff, and volunteers can focus on creating an exceptional experience for your community. Remember—these tips will go a long way to thank your volunteers and recognize volunteers for all the help they provide.

Learn more about Xplor Recreation’s community association software here.

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