Recognising Volunteers

Even though volunteers work for free, they cost a lot to recruit and train.  But they are essential to the smooth running of many community organisations. It makes sense to recognise their contribution – in order to hold onto them, to inspire other volunteers and because, importantly, they deserve it.

It is important to find the right way to recognise a volunteer’s contribution. This is because some volunteers value different ways of being recognised more than others.

A helpful starting point is to know why the volunteer is working for the organisation. If they are volunteering because they are hoping for paid employment, they will value the chance to receive training or a referee for their resume.

Volunteering Australia is a national peak body for volunteers, whose job is to advance volunteering in the Australian community. Its role is to “represent the diverse views and needs of the volunteer sector while promoting the activity of volunteering as one of enduring social, cultural and economic value”.  The website has lots of suggestions for giving recognition to volunteers, it suggests:

    • Adequately orientating volunteers.
    • Ensuring volunteer coordinators are readily accessible to volunteers.
    • Encouraging volunteer participation in team planning.
    • Encouraging volunteer participation in planning that effects their work.
    • Providing training.
    • Giving additional responsibility.
    • Enabling volunteers to ‘grow’ on the job.
    • Including volunteers in special events.
    • Including volunteers in coffee breaks.
    • Recommending volunteers to prospective employers.
    • Maintaining Occupational Health and Safety standards.
    • Takeing the time to explain and listen to volunteer’s ideas and concerns.
    • Recognising and accommodate personal needs and problems.
    • Celebrating achievements and efforts.
    • Keeping volunteers informed via newsletter.
    • Providing letters of reference.
    • Sending birthday and Christmas cards.
    • Allocating notice board space to applaud volunteer achievement.
    • Organising awards with certificates, plaques or medals.

Find out more by jumping on their website –

Awards for Volunteers

If you choose to organise awards, you might want to time them for National Volunteer Week, a national time for promoting volunteers. Dates are set by Volunteering Australia, in May (starting on the Monday immediately after Mother’s Day through to the following Sunday). You can get the latest dates and events from the Centre for Volunteering website –

Alternatively, you could choose International Volunteer Day, on 5 December, which has been designated as a day when organisations can thank their volunteer staff. It is organised by the World Volunteer Web, which has further tips on how to thank your volunteers –

Another way of recognising your really valuable volunteers or volunteer organisations is to nominate them for an award from outside of your organisation. A number of awards are given each year to volunteers who’ve made an outstanding contribution to the community. Volunteering Australia has a calendar of awards you can use to search for volunteers awards ceremonies –

Some of the awards you can nominate someone for or be nominated for include:

    • NAB Volunteer Awards – aiming to recognise the commitment of volunteers and to reward the community groups who show the best practice in their management of volunteers.
    • National Honours Award Scheme – awarded twice yearly by the Governor-General in her capacity as Head of State, to very publicly recognize, reward and celebrate outstanding achievements and service to the community.
    • Australian Safer Communities Awards – awarded to community groups or individuals (mostly volunteers) who make our communities safer places to live in, conducted by Emergency Management Australia.
    • Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships – aiming to publicly recognise business and community groups who are working together in a ‘spirit of social coalition, to tackle problems of disadvantage and to build stronger local communities’.
    • NSW Government Heritage Volunteer Awards – aiming to recognise individuals and community groups who have promoted the value of heritage, who have improved the profile of heritage management in their area, or who have managed heritage projects.

Finally, phone your local council or find its website off the list of NSW local councils. Many local councils have Community Volunteer Awards and nominating one of your volunteers can be a great way of recognising their efforts.

Certificates of Appreciation

You can adapt this sample certificate of appreciation to your needs.
Certificate of Appreciation (28 KB)

Microsoft has a huge range of free certificates you can browse and download –