Standard E8 Explained

Why is it important to acknowledge the contributions of volunteers? Recognizing the efforts of volunteers is one of the most important ways for your organization to retain current volunteers and attract new ones.1 Recognition demonstrates your organization’s gratitude for the work of its volunteers, helping volunteers to feel that they are an integral part of your organization and that their contributions are valued.2 In turn, this increases volunteer morale and productivity.2 Recognition should occur formally and informally, internally and publicly, and should be meaningful to the individual volunteer.3

How can your organization effectively recognize the contributions of its volunteers? Volunteer Canada suggests that organizations implement the following best practices in volunteer recognition:1

  • Prioritize volunteer recognition – make volunteer recognition an official part of someone’s role in your organization
  • Recognize volunteers often – say thank-you frequently and ensure that the contributions of volunteers are acknowledged consistently
  • Recognize volunteers in a variety of ways – recognition should be both formal and informal, ranging from informal thank-you’s and treats to formal awards presentations, dinners, guest speakers, and sharing organizational milestones including how volunteers have contributed to achieving organizational goals
  • When recognizing volunteers, be sincere – meaningfully reflect on and acknowledge the contributions of volunteers to your organization
  • Focus on the individual, not the end result of their work – phrase recognition to emphasize the individual’s contribution, for instance “you did a great job” as opposed to “this is great work”
  • The form of recognition should be appropriate to the volunteer’s contribution – an informal thank-you might be appropriate for a month of service, whereas 10 years of service might be honoured with a dinner or plaque
  • Be consistent – establish standards for volunteer recognition and understand that the ways in which volunteers are recognized establishes expectations in other volunteers 
  • Be timely – recognize volunteers when they have made a significant achievement. Delaying acknowledgement can diminish its meaningfulness
  • Be unique – get to know your volunteers in order to understand what kinds of recognition would be most meaningful for them as individuals


From "Accreditation Preparation Workbook Section E: Volunteer Involvement,"  Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo at the University of Waterloo, 2013.

  1. “Best Practices in Volunteer Recognition,” Volunteer Canada.
  2. “Volunteer Recognition: Matching Motivation to Rewards,” Cheryl Humphrey-Pratt, RCVO @ Volunteer Alberta, 2006.
  3. “The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement: Values, Guiding Principles, and Standards of Practice,” Volunteer Canada, 2012.


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