Recognizing Volunteers

By Leah Berry
Director of Engagement and Leadership

As we wrap up the current fiscal year, it is important that we take the opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments, recognize our lay leaders and volunteers for their efforts and identify their next steps for involvement.

When recognition is done successfully, it is ongoing, personal and thoughtful.  People don’t always take the time to say thank you because they busy, don’t always have an attitude of gratitude ingrained in them. Being thankful and expressing gratitude is a profound Jewish value. As Jews, every morning we wake up and recite Modeh Ani expressing our gratefulness for all that we have been given. In Judaism, the word for thank you is todah which comes from the word, l’hodot, to praise. Hakarat hatov is another way that one expresses thanks which literally translates as recognizing goodness.

Power of the personal thank you note
A handwritten note goes further in many cases than a public honor. Notes should be personal and meaningful. Let’s use Dayenu as a great example of a wonderful expression of appreciation. Dayenu is broken up into specific components to help the reader realize the many miracles that took place in the Exodus story. Dayenu teaches us to be specific, detailed and break down the different aspects of what people have done for us, when we are expressing our gratitude.  Take advantage of unexpected moments to send a thank you (during an experience with a volunteer versus at the end of the year when they might be expecting it).

Creating a culture of appreciation and gratitude
As it states in Psalms, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, the world is held up/built on kindness. As lay and professional leaders in the community, we need to create an ongoing culture of gratitude. Everyone has different life experiences and some individuals don’t feel comfortable giving and/or receiving gratitude. We need to orchestrate an environment where people feel good about giving and receiving appreciation. When someone decides to take on a project, they are not always expecting to be appreciated but there is minor disappointment when they don’t feel appreciated. People need to feel appreciated and a sense of belonging.

What’s next for the outgoing leader?
Creating plans for outgoing leaders helps to ensure their future involvement while gleaning
important lessons learned from their tenure in their leadership position.

  • Meet in person with your chair(s) to thank him/her, discuss the year as a whole, accomplishments, challenges, their overall experience, etc. Also discuss his/her interests going forward. (If he/she is concluding the term, determine what the individual wants to do next. Get a range of interestsIf he/she is not completing the term, it is never too early to begin this general conversation.) Following the meeting, should the individual require a new placement, work with the appropriate person in your organization to follow-up on the various interests.

During your transition meeting, consider asking the following questions:

  • What did you learn during your tenure in this leadership position?
  • Are there particular aspects of the work, or new things that you saw/learned that piqued your interest? What should we be aware of in future planning?
  • What do you think is next for you?

THE ASSOCIATED offers the “cultivation form” to help you with this process. Download the form now>>


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