Volunteer recognition by generation

Generational differences influence how people seek recognition.

When I was a child my mother volunteered at a local nursing home. She transported patients in wheel chairs and painted the ladies fingernails. Like many of her friends, she looked forward to the annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Ladies understood that this was a dress-up occasion and everyone wore a stunning hat and white gloves. She knew that she would be publicly thanked and receive a small token for her dedication and service. She might even be awarded another service pin announcing the number of hours that she had served.

My how things have changed! I, nor anyone of my friends, would welcome an event like that today!

Maybe it’s the times we live in or the way groups of generations are bottled together? But different age groups are motivated differently. Let’s look at the groups and what motivates them and how they want to be recognized:

The Silent Generation (1925-1945)-This was my mother’s group. These Volunteers who fall in the silent generation are motivated by public and formal recognition events. Honoring years of service, pins, certificates and useful items are ideas on how to recognize people who fall into this generation.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)-This is my generation. Don’t bother with meaningless trinkets. Baby boomers seek recognition that will recognize their leadership, expertise, hard work or commitment to a program. How about providing them with name tags? Maybe send them personal thank you notes that thank they for sharing their time and talent

Generation X (1965-1980)-This group are flattered by being recognized for their creativity and contributions. Avoid public recognition events. Find activities that include their family and children. Connect with them on a one-to-one bases. Email or social media works too.

Millennials (1981-present)-Millennials are collaborators. Avoid traditional recognition events. But reward them by asking for feedback, reference letters, and a verbal thank you. They may like movie passes or a gift card.

Not every volunteer will fall into one of the above categories. So maybe a varied approach to volunteer recognition might be best. As volunteer managers, we have to learn what type of recognition approach works best with each individual and take time to learn what type of recognition is the most meaningful to them. Sometimes it takes a year full of thought and planning. It does not all have to happen during Volunteer Week!

 

*Post written by Jean Joley, Executive Director at Volunteer Center RSVP

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