New and Exciting Ideas for Volunteer Rewards and Recognition

By changing the way you approach volunteer recognition activities, you may be able to better tap into what really drives human motivations and, along the way, help volunteers feel truly acknowledged and appreciated.
Illustration of colorful clapping hands

Guest Post: Tobi Johnson, Tobi Johnson & Associates


I’m often asked for recommendations on volunteer rewards and recognition strategies.  Naturally, leaders of volunteers want to express their gratitude for the contributions of their volunteers and want to encourage them to continue their efforts.  Unfortunately, more often than not, they don’t have the budget or can’t convince senior management, or the fiscal department, to approve the expense.

As I work on a volunteer recognition and retention plan for one of my consulting clients, I’ve taken a step back to reconsider — What really motivates us?  How can that be integrated into how we reward and recognize volunteers?  Does recognition really require a big budget and lots of bling, or are we missing the point entirely?

For author Daniel Pink, most businesses (of which I assume nonprofits are a part) miss the point when they design their employee reward systems.  In his TED talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” he explains what science has only recently discovered — contingent motivators don’t work.  When we attempt to inspire using a transactional approach — “if you do X, we’ll give you X” — performance actually gets worse.

Related Posts