While engaging and caring for volunteers is an ongoing activity, National Volunteer Week (April 6-12, 2014) is an important reminder to celebrate volunteers and their impact. This week provides an opportunity to honor “the enduring importance of recognizing our country’s volunteers for their vital contributions” and “their collective power to make a difference.”
It’s also an opportunity for me to share a glimpse into what Lehigh University’s Alumni Association (LUAA) does for volunteer recognition. Lehigh is my alma mater, and I served on the Alumni Association Board many years ago. I asked Lori Kennedy, former director of alumni volunteer engagement and current director of Lehigh’s career services, about the Alumni Association’s volunteer recognition. She explained that National Volunteer Week is “part of our five point recognition plan [to] recognize our volunteers very thoughtfully throughout the year.” LUAA’s calendar of volunteer recognition efforts include:
- August – volunteers receive a copy of the Alumni Association’s annual impact report
- November – volunteers receive a thanksgiving “thank you” card
- December – volunteers receive a holiday card
- April – recognition e-mail for national volunteer week
- Throughout the year – each volunteer receives a personal birthday card signed by Bob Wolfenden, head of Lehigh Alumni Relations.
Volunteer recognition isn’t limited to these activities, as alumni volunteers receive additional recognition from the Association’s program managers throughout the year. From my own and others’ experience, I know that Alumni Association staff members (current and retired) build great relationships with alumni volunteers and leaders. Here’s one example that Lori shared with me.
“Monica Timar, LUAA associate director, worked with a volunteer who moved to Florida. The volunteer shared with Monica how much she enjoyed fall and the leaves on campus. One fall, Monica went outside and filled a box with leaves and sent the box to the volunteer in Florida! A great example of a personal and meaningful way to recognize a volunteer.”
Way to go, Monica! She understands that volunteer engagement is all about creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. Without that relationship, any volunteer recognition is token at best.