Monday, August 20, 2012

Member Engagement Solution #3: Recognize Volunteer Contributions

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I've mentioned previously that I'm leading another innovation effort for WSAE, something we're calling an Innovation Circle. Ours is focused on member engagement, and you can get an overview of what it is and what we're trying to achieve with it here.

I've previously posted on some of the member engagement issues people in the Circle are wrestling with. Now, I'm sharing a some of the solutions the group is coming forward with--strategies that have been demonstrated to work in at least one association environment. This is the third post in that series. Previous posts include:

#1: Don't Forget the Fun
#2: Recruit with a One-to-One Philosophy

As always, I encourage you to add your thoughts and comments as we go along.

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Member Engagement Solution #3: Recognize Volunteer Contributions

It is critical to find the time and appropriate mechanisms for recognizing the work of association volunteers. They are not paid for their contributions, and can easily fall away if they perceive that their efforts and are not valued and appreciated.

I most recently wrote about my own experiences with this here, but I don't want to leave the impression that everything you do in this regard has to be that elaborate. But it is a fact that the more elaborate mechanisms for recognizing contributions are, in my experience, the easier ones to cement as part of the on-going processes of the organization.

We've all heard about those executives who handwrite a thank you note every day (with a fountain pen, no doubt, first thing in the morning, while his assistant is bringing in his tea and organic honey), but I've always struggled with systems and rituals like this. They've been a little bit like my adventures in journal writing. After awhile the entries--and thank you notes--start feeling forced, and whatever sincerity I'm trying to inject into the writing gradually leaches away.

The only consistent success I've had with small notes of recognition are the verbal ones I offer whenever I'm with a volunteer who is doing something on behalf of the association. In my world, that's most frequently a board or committee chair who is leading a meeting. At the end of the session, especially if things have gone well, I make it a point to thank the individual for their leadership. The comments are always well received.

What other things do you do--large or small--to recognized volunteers for their contributions?


  1. Great actionable tips, Eric. You are pointing out that member engagement is not rocket science. It is just human nature. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks, Joshua. It is human nature, but it's sometimes hard to implement in our non-human organizations.