Inspiration from nature: Is it for the birds or not?

Post Updated: 1 month ago

For the past two weeks, I have been watching a bird in my back yard while I drink my morning coffee.  At first, I thought it was just one of the pesky birds waiting for me to go inside so it could enjoy the cat food in the automatic feeder set out for the feral kitties who live in our back yard.  Over a couple of days, I noticed a pattern to this bird’s activities that didn’t have anything to do with cat food.  This bird was building a nest in the Ficus tree.

As I studied the bird going about its nest building activity, I noticed that it carefully chose the twig to carry to its nest.  This is challenging in my backyard.  I live in Arizona, so erase the picture of a green lush backyard.  Envision a dry brown grass area surrounded by a rock border area that houses a few trees and bushes.  The lushest thing in my backyard is the hearty weeds that grow and thrive despite the heat and lack of water.  It is slim pickings for the bird, but it judiciously hops around looking for just the right twig.  It reviews many twigs and rejects them before selecting one.

When it has found the right piece needed for its work of a lifetime, it first flies to the pool fence and seems to rest and consider the next step of its journey.  When the time is right, the bird flies to the branch and enters the inner sanctum of the Ficus tree where the nest resides.  This process is repeated over and over.

As I reflected on the bird’s process of building a nest to nurture its offspring, it reminded me of my experience working with volunteers.  Now you may be thinking that I’m short a few twigs, but hear me out.

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Top 3 Reasons to Recognize Your Volunteers after National Volunteer Week

Post Updated: 1 month ago

National Volunteer Week 2017 is behind us, but don’t think that means you can stop recognizing your volunteers. With a focus on volunteer recognition during National Volunteer Week, it gives the impression that once the week is over, volunteer recognition is no longer necessary.  This can’t be further from the truth.  Let’s explore the top three reasons that you need to continue recognizing your volunteers after National Volunteer Week.

  1.  Volunteers serve every day.  Most your volunteers serve throughout the year, not just during National Volunteer Week.  Recognizing them just once a year is nice. but it is far from an ongoing diverse volunteer recognition plan that satisfies, retains and engages your volunteers throughout the year.
  2. Volunteer recognition is a volunteer’s “paycheck”.  Volunteers need ongoing thanks, appreciation, recognition, and feedback that tells them they are a valued member of the team doing meaningful work.  Could you imagine forgetting to give employees their paycheck?  Well, you shouldn’t forget to give volunteers their recognition “paycheck” either.
  3. Ongoing diverse recognition is key to satisfying, retaining, and engaging your volunteers at a higher level of service and financial contribution.  Not providing real recognition that is personalized and meaningful is the same as throwing away resources and assets that your organization needs. Impactful recognition creates impactful volunteers, brand ambassadors and donors.

So as May unfolds and throughout the rest of the year, be sure to thank, appreciate and recognize your volunteers.  It is not only the right thing to do, but it is the only thing that will bring you the results and impact you are working towards.

Don’t miss an opportunity to recognize your volunteers every day!


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Nobody Needs Another Frickin Keychain!

Post Updated: 2 months ago

April is home to National Volunteer Week April 23rd - 29th.  It is a time when our attention focuses on volunteers.  It is a time to recognize and celebrate volunteers for their generous and impactful service performed throughout the year.  So what makes for a great recognition for volunteers?

Every volunteer is a unique individual who volunteers in a unique way for their own unique reason.  Do you see a trend?  Volunteers are unique.  They may serve in the same position with the same tasks and responsibilities, but each volunteer will bring their own special qualities to their service.  Their service may be like other volunteers, but each volunteer will make it their own.  Honoring their unique contribution makes for the most rewarding and impactful recognition for volunteers.

If volunteers serve in a unique way, why is so much recognition based on doing the same generic thing for each volunteer?  Yes, we want to be fair and equitable, but volunteers contribute in different ways and to different degrees.  Is it fair and equitable to provide the same recognition to the volunteer who contributed 1000 hours of service last year as the volunteer who contributed only 100 hours?  Is it fair and equitable to provide the same recognition to the volunteer who raised $100 for the race event as the volunteer who chaired the race planning committee; spent 6 months planning the event, recruited and oversaw 100 volunteers at the event, interacted with the local media, promoted in social media, raised $2000, and secured 4 event sponsors?  I think you see my point.

For volunteer recognition to be meaningful, it must be personalized.  It doesn’t mean you need to do something unique for each and every volunteer, although that would be the most impactful.  It does mean that volunteer recognition needs to be about the volunteer; who they are and the impact of their service.  Match the recognition for a volunteer to their service; the degree and impact.  This can be accomplished in many ways that can accommodate any size or type of volunteer program.  Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to be creative and customize it to your volunteer program.

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The ROI of Real Volunteer Recognition

Post Updated: 2 months ago

The benefits of Celebrate Volunteers are many. This innovative tool can be an addition to your current recognition program or the start of new recognition program. It offers the flexibility of recognizing one volunteer, a volunteer every day, week, or month, all your volunteers, a team of volunteers, or a volunteer group; with the opportunity to add additional thanks and recognition after the initial recognition.

Celebrate Volunteers is personalized, meaningful and real recognition for your volunteers.  Real volunteer recognition provides the greatest impact and the greatest return on your investment (ROI).

Volunteer Program ROI

  • Cost Effective – Price Points for Everyone
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Meaningful Volunteer Recognition: The Vision

Post Updated: 3 months ago

In the last blog article,, I shared my journey as an accidental volunteer manager.  What I discovered during that adventure was a profound appreciation and admiration of volunteers.  I also found a personal and professional frustration in providing recognition that would be meaningful to the volunteers and impactful for my organization.

It was a challenge to find volunteer recognition that would be personalized and meaningful to a diverse group of volunteers; men and women from 14 to 95 representing all races, religions and cultures, while meeting my time and budget constraints. 

I provided many different types of volunteer recognition.  Some were ingrained traditions that tenured volunteers were attached to; such as the annual recognition luncheon and the hour award pins, even though newer volunteers had no interest.  Some were gifts of appreciation that some volunteers loved and others wouldn’t even take or quite possibly deposited in the trash as soon as they got home.  Some were traditional statements of honor, like a plaque or certificate, that again some loved, but others had no idea what to do with.  Some were courtesies like a birthday card with a discount coupon, a holiday card with a calendar and an anniversary announcement in the newsletter that were nice, but not very meaningful to the volunteer. 

These recognition activities combined were a diverse year-round program that succeeded in thanking and appreciating volunteers with some meaning and impact, but it still felt like it was missing the mark. What activity or item will make every volunteer feel like they have won the award for volunteer of the year?  What will tell each volunteer that they are truly valued and held in high esteem?  What will have all volunteers feeling more committed to their volunteer activity and to the organization; so much so, they increase their service in hours, significance and impact AND they increase their financial giving to the organization?

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Who's behind Celebrate Volunteers?

Post Updated: 3 months ago

Who’s behind Celebrate Volunteers?  I’m sure some of you have wondered; who’s behind Celebrate Volunteers?  It’s me!  I’m Linda Llewellyn, founder of Celebrate Volunteers.  I am an accidental volunteer manager.  It wasn’t a career I studied for or chose, but one that found me by accident.

I began my professional career as a social worker in a domestic violence shelter.  I loved my work; however, after 3 years and a budget deficit for the organization, I found myself laid off.  I saw this as a sign that it was time to move from Phoenix to sunny southern California.  So, in pursuing a job that would facilitate this goal, I found employment as an inside sales representative for a temporary staffing agency that let me live in Redondo Beach, CA.  What a real-life education!  I learned much about corporate America while interviewing, assigning temporary employees to various positions and providing supervision from afar.  In this position, I didn’t love my work.  The aerospace industry crash in the early 1990’s led to my 2nd layoff in just over 5 years of college graduation.  What a relief!

I knew it was time to move back into the nonprofit world.  I began searching and interviewing for a variety of positions in the nonprofit community of Los Angeles.  I was blessed with an Executive Director who looked at my resume depicting my work as a social worker and temporary personnel supervisor and keenly saw a volunteer coordinator.  This began my life-long career in volunteer management and my love of volunteers and their impact.

I worked for just over 2 years at the South Bay Free Clinic in Manhattan Beach, CA managing about 350 volunteers serving in 4 sites in our medical, dental, HIV/AIDS, and legal programs.  I loved working with volunteers!  I loved seeing the generosity and compassion people brought to volunteering.  I loved seeing the miracles that happened in their service as each shared their time and talents in unique ways.

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Love and Volunteers

Post Updated: 4 months ago

Valentine’s Day is for lovers.  A day dedicated to love.  When we think of love, we think of our romantic relationships, especially at Valentine’s Day, but there are many forms of love.  The love we have for our family, the love we have for our friends, and the love we have for our neighbors, our community and humanity at large.  We have a great capacity for love.

Love is abundant.  Love is there when we celebrate life’s joys.  Love is there to help us through life’s challenges.  Love is everywhere in life.  Love conquers all. 

Love is often what motivates one to volunteer.  The desire to help others and better our community.  It drives us to share our time and talents for the good of all.  Love inspires the positive action and fuels the commitment to continue volunteering.  Love drives volunteerism.

Every day volunteers are reading to children, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting the homebound, building playgrounds, answering crisis calls, fostering animals, mentoring youth, teaching classes, clearing trails, planting gardens, raising funds, painting buildings, rocking babies, making meals, packing supplies, running in marathons, visiting with pets and hundreds of other activities.  Activities designed to help others in a tangible way while sharing love.

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Volunteering Makes Friends

Post Updated: 4 months ago

When you spend time working together on a dedicated mission, especially one that is motivated by kindness, compassion or love, you have an ideal environment for friendship to grow.  A volunteer activity provides a neutral shared experience.  It is easier to be yourself when you are focused on something other than yourself.  The barriers come down and you shine through.  When you are serving others, your best qualities rise to the surface and permeate your activities.  As you help others, your heart continues to open enabling you to better connect with all involved.  The same is true for all involved.  Friends are made and friendships deepen.

Whether you are volunteering with a long-time friend or a new friend that you met at the volunteer activity, the time together, helping others, provides a new experience that you are sharing and creating memories together.  Your experience volunteering together gives you a common bond.  It creates a shared history whether long or short.  Each of you will always have this memory of your service together.

Today, February 11th is National Make a Friend Day.  It’s a great day to volunteer with your friend(s) or to volunteer and make new friends.  So, make a friend and make memories while helping others in your community.  A positive life-enriching experience for everyone.

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Be Prepared for Volunteer Recognition Just Like a Boy Scout

Post Updated: 4 months ago

Wednesday, February 8th is National Boy Scout Day.  We’ve all known a boy scout or two.  Those young men in blue with their crisp neckerchief, merit badges and tidy haircuts always doing good deeds.  

Since 1910 boys across America have been doing good deeds, learning survival skills and developing moral foundations through the Boy Scout of America.  February 8th annually recognizes National Boys Scouts Day.  Boy Scouts have had a profound impact on the United States. 

Their motto, widely known by everyone, is Be Prepared.  A boy scout is ready for anything at any time. This may very well be because of the top five merit badges earned by scouts; First Aid 6,537,232, Swimming 5,929,179, Camping 4,364,027, Cooking 4,122,629, and Citizenship in the Community 3,178,473.  A boy scout prides himself on being prepared for any situation.

It is this mindset, that makes boy scouts excellent volunteers.  They are prepared to be good citizens. They are prepared to serve in the community.  They are prepared for new experiences and strive to excel at them.  They are prepared to be compassionate and help others.  It’s all part of being a boy scout.

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What do Boy Scouts have to do with Volunteer Recognition?

Post Updated: 4 months ago

Wednesday, February is National Boy Scout Day.  I am reminded of the Boy Scout’s motto of Be Prepared.  This is a motto that serves boy scouts well in all their life experiences.  It is a motto that many of us wish we could emulate, even a little bit.  Being prepared is a critical element of success; whether we prepare through education or practice.

The Boy Scout’s motto reminds me of how important it to be prepared as a volunteer manager.  Being prepared in your volunteer program is the difference between success and failure.  You can imagine for a minute; if you recruit volunteers before knowing what they will be doing, that the experience for the volunteer and your organization is doomed before it even starts.  This equally true for your volunteer recognition plan. Your efforts at volunteer recognition are doomed, if you are not prepared.

Volunteer recognition is a key element in the success of your volunteer program.  It must be planned, in advance or it runs the risk of being forgotten or poorly executed.

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