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Meaningful Volunteer Recognition: The Vision

Post Updated: 3 days ago

In the last blog article, https://www.celebratevolunteers.com/blog/whos-behind-celebrate-volunteers-3, 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: 1 week 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: 1 month 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: 1 month 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: 1 month 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: 1 month 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.

You may be saying:

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2017: A Year to Transform Your Volunteer Program

Post Updated: 2 months ago

A New Year is all about new opportunities.  It is a great time to begin anew.  A chance to start fresh and to do all the things you wanted to do last year, but never quite accomplished.  A chance to dream big and set new goals.  A chance to create a vibrant volunteer program with satisfied, engaged and impactful volunteers who remain with your organization longer, serve in a greater capacity and donate in unprecedented ways.

Creating a vibrant volunteer program is a process that you can begin today!  There are five main areas where you can transform your program.

Planning:  Start by having all your ducks in a row. 

              Policies and procedures 

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4 Actions of Common Courtesy are the Foundation of Volunteer Commitment

Post Updated: 5 months ago

A successful volunteer program relies on committed volunteers.  Committed volunteers are more dependable, more engaged, and more likely to continue serving your organization.  How do volunteer become committed?  Do they show up already committed or do you need to develop their commitment?

Most volunteers show up with an open heart and a willingness to serve, to help others, but their commitment is something that is developed during their volunteer service.  Commitment is grown through their experience with the volunteer program staff and with the organization.  There are certainly many factors that contribute to growing commitment.  Treating volunteers with common courtesy is a foundational part of growing commitment. 

Common Courtesy has a multitude of definitions based on an individual's culture and life experience, but almost all definitions have 4 common elements of courtesy:

  • Be Helpful:  There are many ways to be helpful.  It can be accomodating a special need or a schedule request for your volunteer. It can be offering training in multiple formats so it's best for the volunteer. It can be providing a break area with refridgerator, microwave, coffee, water and a few treats.  It can be lending a listening ear when your volunteer is troubled. Being helpful is an attitude, one that you will want to model for your volunteers.
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Training Opportunities Posted to the Calendar in CelebrateVolunteers.com

Post Updated: 5 months ago

September and October bring some exciting training opportunities; the National Conference for the Association of Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals, great webinars from VolunteerMatch.org and more.  Be Inspired, check out the calendar to get your knowledge fix.  

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National Day of Service and Remembrance unites and celebrates volunteers!

Post Updated: 6 months ago

In honor of the National Day of Service and Remembrance, I am sharing this press release from the Corporation for National and Comummunity Service.  It is a day of opportunity to give back and help others.  It is time to honor volunteers and recognize their immense contribution to our communities and way of life.  Check out some of the great things going on this weekend across the country.

This 9/11 weekend, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are expected to join their neighbors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to build affordable housing for veterans and military families, prepare care packages for military service members and first responders, revitalize parks and neighborhoods, educate citizens on disaster preparedness, organize food drives, and more. Many AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers will lead and participate in these projects.

"The events on 9/11 were truly devastating, but they also brought the country together in the spirit of service,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, who will join volunteers and national service participants at service projects in New York City. “I am proud to serve alongside so many Americans who are dedicating a day to give back in honor of the day’s victims and heroes. Through volunteering, we can make a difference in the lives of families and transform communities on the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance and every day.”

CNCS partners with 9/11 Day, the nonprofit that began the 9/11 Day observance more than 10 years ago, and hundreds of other nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations, schools, and businesses nationwide. Other key partners for 2016 include, Points of Light, Service for Peace, and Youth Service America. This year, CNCS joins a coalition of organizations, including 9/11 Day, to support a new initiative “Tomorrow Together,” which will inspire empathy and unity among young leaders and bring generations together nationwide in community service.

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