I am hoping to get an idea of what other orgs do for volunteer awards, if you have them. I am at a hospital very grounded in tradition, some of which are a bit outdated. We have long celebrated a "gentleman" and "lady" volunteer of the year (as well as having several other lesser awards, Lifetime Achievement, Leadership, "rookie of the year", etc.), and would like to move away from the gendered categories, but still want to keep the awards. Or at least one. Can't decide! (And weighing how to best make a change without upsetting too many long-standing volunteers who like it the old way.) I will ask my volunteers for their recommendations as well, but I wanted to poll colleagues as well, and try to figure out what I'd like to see myself!
Does your org have anything in the vein of a "Volunteer of the Year" award?
If so, do you just have one top honor, or do you honor more than one volunteer? How do you classify the different awardees?
Thanks for any feedback!
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland
Hi Emily! At Multnomah County Library we participate in the Community Involvement Committee's annual awards which recognizes volunteers throughout the various Multnomah County. This means volunteers are categorized by their county department instead of something more specific like "volunteer of the year." Volunteers are nominated by staff at their library location or program which is then reviewed by Volunteer Services and passed on to the Community Involvement Committee.
Maybe you could have volunteer awards by department?
Hi, Emily! I work with Ride Connection. We have traditionally had an annual luncheon or brunch to honor our Volunteers. Each year we had a theme, and people were invited to dress accordingly if they wanted to (a sock hop, pirate theme, wild animal theme, country western theme, etc). A lot of people really got into it and went all out with their outfits! Most attendees are Volunteer Drivers, but we have Volunteers working in every part of the organization. We had awards for Volunteer Drivers according to county - Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas County Driver of the Year. For non-drivers (Board members, Office Volunteers, Outreach Volunteers, "Ride Ambassadors" who guide groups of older adults on trips on TriMet, etc.) we had separate categories. We had one overarching award of Volunteer of the Year, which typically honored an active, outstanding, (usually longtime) Volunteer. We an emcee, short presentations from our Executive Director, Operations Director, me (Volunteer Outreach Specialist), a representative from TriMet, sometimes a local dignitary, entertainment (based on that year's theme) and premiered a video featuring a Volunteer and customer, sharing their stories.
This year, we'll be doing things a bit differently. Instead of one huge annual event, we'll be having smaller, more frequent, local appreciation events in different parts of our service area. Gatherings will be less presentation-heavy and more about giving Volunteers an opportunity to build relationships with each other. We're still talking about how we want to handle awards, because, frankly, we have so many committed, amazing Volunteers that all deserve to be honored. I'm not sure yet how it will go over with longtime Volunteers who will miss having one large, more formal event, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that even more Volunteers will be able to attend and enjoy getting to know each other on a more personal level. I know change can be hard. We'll see how it goes!
I'm eager to hear what direction you take, and how other organizations do this, too. If you want to swap ideas/stories, I'd love to chat or meet up for coffee.
Pam Monahan, (503) 528-1738, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has the Dave Liscia Volunteer Award which is annual commendation presented to an exceptional volunteer in hon or former ODFW employee Dave Liscia, a volunteer coordinator who worked extensively with salmon populations, who passed away in 2002 while on the job.
In a past position, our volunteers responded well to years of service awards - 5, 10, 15... They received a pin with the number of years.