In the blog series ‘Volunteering is diamond’, we publish articles or videos on volunteering by students who study volunteer leadership at HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.

Thanking and rewarding volunteers have been actively on my mind. As a new mentor of volunteers, I have considered how to reward our organisation’s volunteers for their volunteering this year.

Various guides to volunteering provide a variety of tips for rewarding and thanking volunteers: some popular ways are to organise joint meetings and dinners, send cards, or remember volunteers with small gifts. So, there are many ways for each organisation to choose the most appropriate one based on the resources available.

Or should volunteers be rewarded at all? Volunteers do not participate in volunteering with external motivations – thanks or rewards – in their minds. At least participation in volunteering is often assumed to be caused by internal motivation. Volunteers do not expect to be rewarded for their work, but they gain satisfaction from the activities themselves, meeting people, learning new things, and partaking in an important issue.

However, thanking volunteers is extremely important. At best, thanking increases the enthusiasm of volunteers and motivates them to continue participating in volunteering.

Recently, we asked about the opinions of volunteers of my municipality on rewarding. Some answers relating to internal motivation showed that the volunteers did not expect to be thanked or rewarded by the organisation. Instead, they found it to be sufficient to be rewarded with a good feeling and sense of significance from participating in volunteering. However, several volunteers mentioned that they would like to receive external rewards from volunteering, such as invitations for coffee and cake, movie tickets, dinners, musical performances, picnics, or even a benefit for entrance fees.

It seems that we should use various ways to thank and reward volunteers. However, it is important to talk with volunteers, with hand on heart, about how spectacular it is that they participate as volunteers to achieve common goals. Volunteers should be relayed the feeling that they are needed and that their involvement is relevant to increase people’s well-being. And it is not worth saving these words for speeches of appreciation but also to use them in the daily meetings of volunteers.

Teksti: Karoliina Vesilahti 

The author currently studies volunteer leadership at HUMAK Open University of Applied Sciences.

Translator: Kati Merikoski