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Managers discussing recognition and rewards

Recognition, Rewards and Gamification for Volunteer Programs

How is your organization rewarding its volunteers? Get tips on how to reward a volunteering job well done.

Any volunteer program or system should be easy to use for staff and volunteers alike. Whether you are creating opportunities or joining events and completing tasks, the process needs to feel seamless and keep volunteers coming back for more. This is where recognition, rewards and gamification techniques come in.

Personalize Volunteer Opportunities

Depending on how your organization collates its volunteer opportunities (spreadsheets, event websites, an online community or volunteer system), it’s important to separate opportunities not just by type and time commitment, but also by volunteer types. Match opportunities to the volunteers’ specific skills, interests, location and membership. If members feel the volunteer opportunities can be tailored to their specific volunteer journeys, then they will be more likely to commit early and often.

Also, remember the automation of manual tasks is designed to save staff time and improve processes that will help to optimize volunteer benefits. This automation can originate from your online community and its connected volunteer system. If you’re just starting out with a program and are working without an online platform, it can be as easy as launching a survey tool for sign-up’s and scheduling emails to send throughout a volunteer’s journey.

Reward a Volunteering Job Well Done

Recognize and reward volunteers for their time and efforts, whether it’s through gamification or classic rewards like thank you’s and gifts. You may have members who are regularly contributing to volunteer opportunities and moving up the commitment curve, but are you showing your appreciation? From bustling online communities to small, in-person gatherings, it’s always important to show gratitude.

If you do use an online community to track volunteering, consider using an internal rating system (not all volunteers want to rate one another or opportunities publicly). Allow volunteer managers and staff to make ratings available to track volunteer performance on opportunities, and inform whether or not volunteers should be selected for future opportunities.

Using your online community as a volunteer program home base, try out some of these most popular rewards and recognition tactics:

  • Report and reward volunteer points to your top-tier volunteers—volunteers should be able to see and track their progress (e.g. on their main community profiles)
  • Give out digital badges and ribbons based on volunteer point accumulation (this can be done through a system’s automation rules and be controlled by the system administrators)
  • Populate a Volunteer Leaderboard, in-person or for the community, tracked by a given year or lifetime of volunteers
  • Generate a report listing volunteers and points over a given period; use information for offline recognition like event announcements, thank you letters or gifts based on point levels

How is your organization personalizing and rewarding its volunteers?


Andy Steggles

Andy co-founded Higher Logic with a mission to transform and disrupt the B2B group collaboration software market. He now serves on its Board of Directors, with a specific focus on M&A and other strategic growth initiatives.