I am responding to the question about how to reward self motivated
volunteers since the classic rewards don't work.
The truth is that all of us are self motivated, all humans are motivated by
something inside us. We see something outside us that we want (or don't
want) and we work to get it or get rid of it. It may be conscious or
All humans are internally motivated- I'm writing an article about this right
now since I think it is so important.
We have basic internal needs that are genetically programmed in us at birth,
part of our DNA- the needs are for fun, freedom, belonging or love, power or
achievement and survival.
It is in trying to meet these needs that we behave- and what we think will
meet these needs are different for each person.
Every volunteer has the same internal needs but every volunteer has
different pictures of what will meet those needs. For some people,
volunteering is about developing a relationship with another person:
tutoring, mentoring, visiting a home bound individual, being a big brother
or big sister. This relationship will hopefully meet the need for belonging
but usually more needs are met too. In a tutoring situation, there will be
a sense of achievement and power if and when the tutee is successful.
Volunteers feel doubly proud when the students with whom they work achieve
their goals. Usually these volunteer opportunities have some flexibility in
when and how the work is done which gives the volunteer a sense of freedom
and choice. While helping someone learn can be frustrating, it can also be
fun when the volunteer is able to find a way to actually help the student
So the same opportunity might meet more than one need, and if the volunteer
is doing the tutoring in order to get community service hours to graduate,
then it meets the need for survival (Survival needs are met by procreation,
earning money, academic credits, whatever we need to physically survive).
Dr. David McClelland, a business management expert and professor, identified
that individuals were motivated by three internal needs: achievement, power
or affiliation and he made suggestions about how to reward each type of
person based on his motivation. That information has been helpful for
volunteer coordinators except it doesn't allow for the other needs
identified by Dr. Glasser nor does it acknowledge that the needs change.
Sometimes one need is more important than another.
The dilemma about recognition is that eventually the "typical" rewards don't
work because they don't understand that the needs being fulfilled change - A
certificate might mean a lot to one volunteer who has never had one, but if
the name is misspelled (which happens to me a lot), the certificate is a
total turn off and doesn't say thanks to me at all- it doesn't even
acknowledge my uniqueness or sense of achievement.
The solution is to get to know your volunteers. As a Volunteer Program
Administrator, you need to know what the volunteers do for fun, what makes
them feel unique and special, when they feel a sense of achievement, when
they like to be a "part of" seething and when they like opt have freedom to
choose. When we know that, we know how to develop a recognition that will
meet the individual needs.
People don't volunteer for the recognition but they notice if they aren't
thanked in some way. The way to say thank-you to someone is to know why he
or she is there and find a way to speak to that motivation.
I hope this makes sense.
Sarah (Sam) Elliston, Volunteer Program Coach
2692 Madison Rd., N-1, #303,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45208-1320
513-533-0427 (ph) 513-533-1159 (fax)
"VOLUNTEERS INCREASE VISIBILITY, PRODUCTIVITY AND REVENUE"