Needed: New Ways to Recognize/Reward Volunteers

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We’re knee-deep in interviews with volunteers from a cross-section of associations as part of a number of volunteer strategy projects. There’s still lots of passion. There is also less time, less patience with volunteering that doesn’t move needles, and a sense of a lack of reward for effort.

On one project, we had a task force tackle that last piece. In our discussions and learnings, we shared a thought-provoking piece exploring new and exciting ideas for volunteer recognition and rewards from Tobi Johnson (Tobi is one of my favorite volunteer bloggers.)

She glammed on Daniel Pink’s book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” where he identifies three basic human drives:

  • Mastery – The need to create and learn new things
  • Autonomy – The need to direct our own lives
  • Purpose – The need to be part of something that improves our world and ourselves

Go back to what we’re hearing on all those interviews: I want what I’m doing to make a difference. What if we let the volunteer’s motivations then frame the rewards and recognitions? (Goodbye plaques and trophies?)

Tobi shared a few ways to connect our volunteering R&R to the three basic human drives. Here are a few; read the full post for more.

Encourage Mastery – Help volunteers learn new things; invite guest speakers in for monthly “Teach Ins” (or webinars) that relate to your cause or their work for your organization.

Provide Autonomy – If extensive training is required, allow volunteers to direct at least some of their own learning; offer them a Learning Checklist and goals with which they can track their own progress.

Reinforce Purpose – Present an annual “State of the Community” report to volunteers that details the impacts the organization has had in furthering its mission or cause (both measurable and anecdotal), what challenges it has encountered, and what still needs to be done.

What can you try as we look to engaging new volunteers in the very new kinds of work we have to accomplish in associations as we navigate beyond 2021?

Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.