Why Recognize Volunteers?

When individuals are in an environment where they feel appreciated and needed, the organization sees a number of positive effects. When celebrating service, it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of everyone involved. Honor the volunteers, but also remember to include:

  • Project leaders
  • Community members
  • Community agency partners
  • Your organizational staff and leaders
  • Any financial supporters
  • Any other groups or individuals who helped make the service opportunity possible

Aside from the wish to show appreciation, there are several reasons to recognize and celebrate those involved in service:


  • Educate everyone participating in the celebration about the scope, meaning, and value of volunteer services to your organization, the community, and/or the community agency where you served.
  • Report the outcomes of the volunteers' efforts.
  • Gain publicity for the organization and the program.


  • Recommit (re-enthuse) volunteers for future service opportunities.
  • Challenge all volunteers through recognition of the accomplishments of a selected few.
  • Recruit new volunteers to participate in future projects.


  • Say thank you for everything and anything volunteered to the organization; make sure everyone volunteering feels appreciated.
  • Acknowledge the contributions of staff, donors, and others who contributed to the success of the project.


  • Allow volunteers and staff a chance to have fun together and share in a job well done.
  • Provide opportunities for volunteers, staff, donors, and community members to build relationships and think of future ways to serve together.

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Volunteer recognition does not have to cost a lot, and there are many alternatives to the traditional annual recognition banquet. Use your imagination and think outside the box to come up with some fun, inexpensive ideas that volunteers will enjoy.

No matter what other celebration events you may plan, be sure to take time at the end of a service experience for recognition. You can combine recognition and reflection as participants discuss the significance of the day, celebrate the work completed, and explore the impact it will have on the community and/or the social issue addressed.

If you are unable to initiate a celebration (formal or informal) at the end of the project, try implementing the following recognition ideas throughout the service project:

  • Distribute thank-you gifts during the project (e.g., handmade thank-you cards, donated movie tickets, ice cream coupons, etc.).
  • Offer food and drinks at the volunteer activity. You might even solicit a food donation from a popular local restaurant to distribute during the event.
  • Say thank you! This personal sign of appreciation is often overlooked, but it's always appreciated.
  • Recognize extraordinary volunteers by naming them "Volunteer of the Hour," "Volunteer of the Day," and so forth.

Your volunteers need to be encouraged and recognized for their contributions. As the program manager, try to develop a habit of stepping back and celebrating volunteer accomplishments at every project.