The paycheck

By definition, volunteers don’t get paid for what they do. Yet most do receive some sort of paycheck—a feeling of being appreciated for their work. What form that paycheck takes depends on the person and the act of service. When it comes to shows of appreciation, one size does not fit all.

Use the thoughts on this page to better understand why people volunteer and what they get in return, as well as considerations for giving them the paycheck they seek.

The investment
When members volunteer, they give a part of themselves. They invest their time, energy, skills and sometimes emotions to make a difference in their communities. And being able to make a difference brings a sense of satisfaction, a feeling that is worth more to volunteers than money. The volunteer “work” your members perform is different from the profession or career they get paid to perform, and thus the paycheck is different too. The paycheck they receive for their investment of self can take many forms, depending on the person—friendships that develop with those they serve with, a sense of self-worth, and the feeling of being appreciated, to name a few.

The value of the volunteer
Take a look at your club’s roster. These are the people you’ve recruited and trained over the years. They’ve invested in your club and you’ve invested in them. What are they worth to you? What is the value of each of these members to your club, to your service projects, to each other?

Recognizing their value, their investment, their contribution is key to retaining your members and motivating them to stay invested in your club. Get to know them, get to know why they give of themselves, and what they get in return for the energy they give.

Fitting recognition
Because the service we perform comes from the heart, the thanks we express should come from the heart too. Showing sincere, heartfelt appreciation involves taking the time to find out what form of recognition each member finds meaningful. This recognition, appropriate to the person and the situation, serves as the volunteers’ paycheck, the reason they give of themselves.

Personally knowing your members will allow you to tailor your expression of gratitude to each recipient and situation. Remembering how shy your Builders Club advisor is will keep you from embarrassing her with elaborate attention in front of the club. Find a more private, informal and meaningful way to acknowledge the work she’s done helping lead these middle school students. On the other hand, the auction chairman who lavishes the limelight might prefer a standing ovation during a meeting for the work done and funds raised under her leadership.

In addition to the personality of the recipient, you’ll want to match the size of the contribution to the size of the recognition. While the member who comes 10 minutes early to set up chairs in the meeting hall should be thanked, the coordinator of the county-wide golf outing might warrant a larger, more formal demonstration of recognition, perhaps the gift of a Kiwanis golf shirt presented to him as you announce the turnout for the event.

A culture of appreciation
Member recognition is everyone’s responsibility, not solely the president’s. How members greet and interact on a day-to-day basis shows a general feeling of appreciation and mutual respect for one another. Your club can create this culture too, using some of these creative ideas.