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Thanking & Recognizing Volunteers - Take 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This weekgift box inside a packing box’s #assnchat was all about Recognizing & Thanking Volunteers. Great topic for Thanksgiving week!

It’s an interesting topic for this group because we are all volunteers and in fact this whole program is volunteer-created and run. KiKi L’Italien is the fiercest of us all by week after week moderating this hour-long Tweetchat on association topics – without pay! So let me start this post with a public THANK YOU to KiKi! And a public thank you for Jeff De Cagna, who with his volunteer hat on began this wonderful chat series.

As the conversation worked around the issue, it struck me that this is an issue which continues to burn brightly. To attract interest and lots of discussion. Why, I ask, are we still in need of asking and discussing this topic? Why indeed are we in associations still struggling at all in this area? We were founded by volunteers. We are fueled by volunteers. We are volunteer-organizations.

I have a theory.  And it comes out of watching this volunteer-led #assnchat and other ASAE-volunteer endeavors – which are by-and-large successful. We don’t see our association’s volunteers as peers. We see them as a resource. We see them as “kids.” We see them as customers. And since our volunteers generally show up regardless, we put our focus on ourselves. We focus on getting our task list done.  As association executives who are volunteering together,  we see each other as peers. We do a good job of thanking and recognizing each other.

Watch as volunteers in your association recognize each other. They lavish praise. They give each other gifts.

If we took that same respect to our association’s volunteers I wonder if we’d just do better at thanking and recognizing. I wonder if it would just become so commonplace that it would be non-topic?

To get that, we do need to be deliberate in our intentions. And from today’s chat there were several good examples of how we can be deliberate. For example, we chatted about tracking volunteer activity. Most associations just aren’t doing it. I always wonder why not? In our AMSs it’s a no-brainer to track basic demographics, member categories, dues paid, donations, registrations and subscriptions. Why is it that volunteer activity isn’t just another set of fields?

We also talked about how to keep volunteers involved by having path through the organization. As Cecilia Sepp smartly noted “I don't like when volunteers are pushed out after years of hard work. It's like ‘we got what wanted & now we don't know you.’” We are so focused on filling the board that we forget or just don’t put our attention to all the other roles in our organizations that members can fill. We don’t think life-time volunteer. Well if we want a life-time member, we better start!

For more ideas on thanking and recognizing, check out the full chat, and a couple of past posts on this blog:  best ways to recognize; spreading love; and a New Year’s Resolution: Thanking volunteers.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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