Volunteers: Definition, recognition and resources

A definition for volunteers, recognition and several resources for more information about volunteer recognition.

As volunteer managers, it can be helpful to pause for a moment and consider the basics of the work we do with volunteers. Because there is always so much work to be done, it’s easy to forget that a volunteer is giving of themselves and isn’t a paid staff person. This article will provide a definition for volunteers and recognition, as well as provide several resources for more information about volunteer recognition.

Recognition. is a way to show gratitude, appreciation and thanks. For those who work with volunteers and through volunteers it’s a crucial part of making sure that volunteers are feeling respected for the work that they do. Susan Ellis of Energize, Inc., acknowledges that there are many definitions for the term “volunteer,” but they use the definition:

“To choose to act in recognition of a need, with an attitude of social responsibility and without concern for monetary profit, going beyond one’s basic obligations,” she said.

Regardless of how you define a volunteer, it’s important to properly acknowledge volunteers for the service they give to your organization. According to the Michigan 4-H, recognition can be defined as, “the acknowledgement and affirmation of personal growth of an individual or group.” This definition can be found in a resource called the Michigan 4-H Recognition Handbook.

Given that there are a variety of motivations that cause volunteers to connect with an organization, there are also a variety of ways that volunteers like to be recognized. It’s important to keep this in mind so that volunteers don’t have negative feelings as a result of the way they are recognized.

See the following resources on volunteer recognition for ideas to recognize your organization’s volunteers:

As a volunteer manager, don’t forget to take a moment and reflect on the volunteers that help you accomplish the work that is important to you and your organization. Recognizing those volunteers appropriately will prove to be beneficial for everyone!

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