Types of Recognition

Volunteers have different personalities, are motivated to serve for different reasons, and serve in different ways. Understanding what motivates individual volunteers is a key component to positive and effective volunteer recognition. What motivates one individual may be completely different from what motivates another.

This is why it's good to have a variety of volunteer recognition methods available. An ideal recognition system makes use of different types of recognition to appeal to every volunteer and to keep it personal and meaningful.

Recognition by Motivational Orientation

Think about recognition that is appropriate for volunteers with different motivations. Recognizing the motivations of your volunteers is not always easy, but if you do understand the individual’s motivations, try the following techniques:

When planning for an achievement-oriented volunteer:

  • The ideal result of recognition is additional training or more challenging tasks.
  • The recognition is linked to a very specific accomplishment.
  • Phrasing of recognition could include “Best” or “Most” awards.
  • Recognition decision could include checkpoints or records.
  • Awardee could be selected by fellow team members/volunteers.

When planning for an affiliation-oriented volunteer:

  • Recognition should be given at a group event.
  • Recognition should be given in presence of peers, family, or other bonded groups.
  • Recognition should have a personal touch.
  • Recognition should be organizational in nature, given by an organization.
  • Recognition should be voted on by peers.

When planning for a power-oriented volunteer:

  • A key aspect of recognition is “promotion,” conveying greater access to authority or information.
  • Recognition should be a commendation from “Names” — people the volunteer sees as important or influential.
  • Recognition should be announced to the community at large, put in the newspaper, etc.
  • Recognition should illustrate the impact or influence the volunteer has had on systems, the community, or the issue.

Recognition by Style of Volunteering

In addition to recognizing volunteers based on their individual motivations, you can also vary recognition based on a volunteer’s method of volunteering.

When planning recognition for a long-term volunteer:

  • Recognize the individual in the presence of a large group.
  • Recognition items should make use of group/program symbols.
  • The presenter of the recognition item should be a person in authority.

When planning recognition for a short-term (episodic) volunteer, consider the following:

  • Recognition should be given in immediate work unit or social group.
  • Recognition should be “portable” — that is, something volunteers can take with them when they leave, such as a present, photograph, or other memorabilia.
  • Either a supervisor or a client should present the recognition item.