Recognition Tools

About Recognition
Recognition of volunteers is the process of rewarding and motivating those volunteers who have contributed.
Every volunteer is unique – and how their contribution is recognised should also be sensitive to individual needs and achievements. Supporting the recognition of volunteeringalso helps volunteers themselves to understand their role and the responsibility they have when making a volunteer commitment. A culture of recognition of volunteering needs to be developed across Europe, at national level, in volunteer-involving organisations, in society and amongst individual volunteers themselves. Recognition of the contribution of volunteering is important first of all for the individual engaged in volunteering. Although recognition of the contribution they have made is not in itself a reason why people volunteer, recognising a volunteer’s individual and group achievements is one of the most important parts of a volunteer programme and is strongly linked to the motivation they might have to continue volunteering.


  1. The first stage is an exploratory stage when the new volunteers are still exploring the possibilities of being a volunteer, trying out their role and, if all goes well, making a commitment.
  2. In the second stage volunteers are developing themselves and their role by analysing what they are doing and improving on their performance. As they get more involved they become more committed, they begin to gain skills and it’s at this stage, it is important to recognise volunteers’ achievements and to acknowledge the value of their participation
  3. The final stage is when the volunteer is ready to share their skills and knowledge and to support and lead other volunteers. Here is when it’s important for volunteers to have the skills they have developed recognised so they don’t lose interest and motivation. The volunteer may also want their role to be expanded or may be ready to move into a new role altogether, and recognising the skills which have been gained is a necessary part of matching volunteers to the right role.

To your volunteers
The need for recognition is very important to most people. If their contribution is not recognised, the very least that can happen is that they will lose motivation, or even leave.
To the person, not to the work
Connect the volunteer’s name to the activity.
Appropriately to the achievement
Small actions should be praised with low-effort methods; larger achievements should get something more.Do not give praise unless it is meant. Do not praise substandard performance, as then the praise given to others for good work will not be valued.
Praise should come as soon as possible after the achievement, rather than waiting to thank volunteers, for example, once a year.
In an individualised way
Different people like di‑ erent things. One might love to get football tickets; another might  nd them useless. Some volunteers like public recognition; others find it embarrassing. In order to provide e‑ffective recognition, it is important to get to know volunteers as individuals and what they will respond to positively.
If two volunteers are responsible for similar achievements, they ought to get similar recognition. This does not mean that the recognition has to be exactly the same, but that it should be the result of similar effort.
Types of recognition
• From a person for the work the volunteer did.
• From a person for being part of an organisation.
• From the organisation or the benefi ciaries for the work the volunteer did.
• From the organisation, beneficiaries and / fellow volunteers for being part of the team.
Volunteers tend to make rational decisions about the allocation of their time; they will strive to spend it in settings where they obtain value. This value may be the social aspects, the work objectives, the situational settings, or acombination of all of these. Projects and programmes that enable volunteers to do good work, in a good setting, with good people are uniquely positioned to provide this sense of value and accomplishment.
Skills and competences
Another important aspect of recognition is recognising skills and competences gained through volunteering. The 2007 National Survey of Volunteering and Charitable Giving in the UK found that 46 per cent of volunteers aged 16-24years of age, and 19 per cent for all age groups, volunteered to learn new skills. Through volunteering individuals can also gain a range of vocational and life skills or competences which they can use to improve their personal development, employability, educational achievements, development in other areas of volunteering or their development as active members of the different communities to which they belong. Although sometimes recognised by employers many volunteers are not aware or able to communicate the learning achieved through volunteering or non-formal education. There is a need to develop tools not only to validate the learning gained but also to increase con dence and awareness by individual volunteers, so they can transfer their learning into the different areas of their lives.

  1. Individual level
    • Help volunteers to recognise their own competences wherever they are developed
    • Help volunteers to make those competences visible to the outside world (help them to express their learning).
  2. Organisational level / Volunteering activity or project level
    • Evaluate and validate competences learned outside of volunteering.
    • Adjust training systems to help the individual in their personal development (starting with the individual).
    • Evaluate and validate competences learned in other situations and contexts (transferability of learning)
  3. National level
    • Help the volunteer to get their competences accredited by the (national) educational system.
    • Help the volunteer to get their competences validated and evaluated by employers (labour market).

A good testimonial gives a description of the work the volunteer has done, their responsibilities, and the level of autonomy: did the volunteer work with support, independently, or in an executive position. It’s also important to mention the duration (1 year? 2 years?), the number of hours spends per day/week/month, and a contact person who can be called.
Volunteering on a CV
Things to consider: should volunteering be put under ‘’hobby/free time’’ or under ‘’work experience’’? Can you describe the importance of the volunteering for the job you are applying for?
Competence profile
A competence pro le is a list of competences that you can acquire by doing certain volunteering. It helps the volunteer to reflect on their own development. It also helps to ‘’translate’’ the volunteering to the labour market or to vocational education.
Self assessment
Self assessment is done by the volunteer to get an impression of the competences they have acquired. It also helps them to explore how useful these competences are in other circumstances outside the volunteering. Self-assessment can be done in two ways. One way is to de ne on which level the competence is acquired – the other way is to compare the competence with an external standard.
Assessment by others
Assessment by others [360º feedback] can support and strengthen, but also nuance and relativise, the outcomes of the self-assessment. It can be done by other volunteers/team members the volunteer has worked with, the manager of the volunteer, the clients/members they has worked for.
Results of the work of the volunteer
One of the most important steps in the recognition process is that you are able to show examples of the work you have done as a volunteer. Here you can think of reports of activities, minutes of meetings, pictures/movies of things you have made or of activities you have performed. Also signed declarations from your manager, ‘’thank you’’ letters of participants, and your own written re ections on the job you have done can be useful. Be sure that it’s clear what your role was: a general programme of a summer camp or a training course that you were responsible for is not enough.
Criteria for evidence are:
• Authenticity (is it really about you),
• Relevance (does it really say something about the work process and your level of control),
• Topicality (how recent is it),
• Quantity (how often have you done it, how many things have you made)
• Variety (have you volunteered with diff erent target groups and/or in diff erent situations).
Portfolio for volunteers
•A portfolio is an organised collection of everything you have learned and all the volunteering you have done. It can also contain personal information. The idea comes from the world of art, where artists use the portfolio to show examples of the work they have made. It can be digital, but also in the form of a case with everything on paper in it.
Agreement with institutes
for formal recognition. Institutes for formal recognition are different in each country. Some countries have award systems, in some countries you have to get in touch with schools for vocational education and/or employers institutes.


Tips on thanking volunteers
•Candlelight Dinner
• Send a thank you Postcard
• T shirts or mugs etc that are special and limited i.e. not available to everyone or evenpersonalised
• Free or unique access to places or events. VIP access
• Special events for free but know what your volunteers interests are. This could rangefrom training to parties
• Say thank you at the right time
• Put their stories on websites or in media stories if they are happy with this.
• Say thank you in a diff erent and personalised way with your own spin such as FrozenGiraffes
• If volunteers do something well with others give them a bigger challenge as a team
• Give people opportunities to network at different levels from national to local
• Give feedback to volunteers
• Birthday Card
• The opportunity to appear on Film
• Surprises!

* Source: P.A.V.E.

Useful Tools
Some useful materials were developped in 2015 within the project Roads to Recognition. Make a good use of them:

Roads to Recognition Project outcomes
Classification of recognition tools
Europass flyer
Europass guide
Training Framework


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