Saturday, March 31, 2012

The ART of paying volunteers!

Volunteers are not paid in money. But we forget sometimes that one can pay in many ways. And there are some ways that volunteers must be paid!
Pay is an interesting word. You can be ‘Paid” to do something” You can “pay” a compliment. Sometimes when one seeks revenge they seek “payback”. In space travel we have a payload!

I believe that ART is the currency we should be using to pay volunteers





In My opinion these three words are interlinked and similar in some ways but are the key ingredients in how organisations, government, society and volunteer managers could treat volunteers.

It is too easy to stand up and make a speech during a National Volunteer week event or a volunteer’s function and say that volunteers are acknowledged, respected and thanked. And leave it at that. The problem that we may have with these types of events is that they can be conduits for flowery language on volunteer recognition. Volunteers will know though. Volunteers will see through anyone’s attempt at ART at a volunteers function if that ART is not practiced throughout the year.
ART must be ongoing to be real and relevant. I believe that the organisation that practices good ART can have the most effective and happy volunteer program!

Let’s look at how we may practice ART


Have you ever had that moment where you are walking down a busy corridor and you see someone you know and you say hello and they completely ignore you? That person may be busy or preoccupied. They may have their attention on someone else. Sometimes they may hold positions more senior to yours. You pass by and you still think “They could have at least said hello”
Normally when this happens to me I ensure that I make a bigger effort in my greeting the next time I see them. I ensure that I always give a friendly greeting. I ensure that I am always polite in the face of impoliteness.

I’ve met volunteers who have shared such stories with me. So believe me when I say that it’s important. It’s important to ensure that staff that share an organisation with volunteers acknowledge their presence! It’s important that people acknowledge that volunteers are part of the team.


Assigning meaningful work to volunteers is in my opinion the greatest way to show respect to volunteers. Thought out and well planned roles show that you respect the volunteer contribution. Meaningful work of course can be subjective but the respect factor comes in when you have assigned the most suitable role for the most suitable volunteer. Always keep checking if the volunteer is happy with the role they are performing. Feedback encapsulates respect. If you are constantly encouraging feedback from your volunteers you are giving them the respect that they deserve.


The ‘Thanks” factor is so overlooked in my opinion. And we are poorer for that. Sometimes we ignore the human condition.

I do a job. I am paid to do a job. I appreciate the fact that I am paid. But even in my paid capacity I feel great when I am thanked for something. It’s not ego. I struggle with praise. But I appreciate a thank you!
I believe as volunteer managers we get blindsided when we fall for the line “I am not in it for the thanks”! So many volunteer s that I have encountered in my decades involved in volunteerism have said this. In fact I probably have said this too once upon a time.But it’s a kind of fallacy
How many people do you know who have rejected a thank you?

I postulate that volunteers know a genuine thank you. If you have a once a year event where the thank you platitudes are in abundance and the rest of the year is thankless then you are in serious trouble!

I still feel real in my role when I can say thank you to a volunteer and mean it! I therefore hope that when I say those words they are understood to be genuine!

There is an art to effective Volunteer Management

What are your thoughts on this ART?


  1. Sue Jones in England re-visited this EXCELLENT posting today, DJ -- and it deserves more attention. See You succinctly wrap up exactly what recognition is all about. Thanks. Join in the "Thoughtful Thursday" Twitter exchange on this today at #ttvolmgrs.

  2. Many Thanks Susan for taking the time to write and for your kind words! "Thoughtful Thursday" is a great concept!


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