13 Employee Recognition Ideas for Your Volunteer Program

Feb 15, 2023

No matter the size of your budget or your volunteer corps, employee recognition ideas should align with your company’s culture and values. Successful employee volunteer recognition programs are thoroughly planned and designed, well-managed, clearly communicated and frequently evaluated. 

Incentivizing employees can be as simple as writing thank you notes and as extensive as planning a large-scale award ceremony. Common elements of successful recognition programs include incorporating senior management support and participation, providing monetary funds to the nonprofit organization of the honoree’s choice and aligning with a special day of service or company event. 

Employee Recognition Ideas for Your Volunteer Program 

Offer Simple Rewards for Incentivizing Employees 

1. If employees are going into the office regularly or occasionally, reserve a prime parking space for the Volunteer of the Month. Award this time-saving convenience to a volunteer or volunteer leader who has served the most hours during a specific time period or has gone above and beyond. 

2. Produce certificates or a letter of appreciation signed by the CEO. Even better, ask for hand-written notes from senior leaders to thank volunteers or volunteer leaders for their contributions. 

3. During volunteer projects, observe who is working hard and going the extra mile, and offer them an on-the-spot reward such as a gift card for a cup of coffee or a pin they can display proudly. Consider what might resonate most with the volunteers you’re working with. 

4. Schedule a recurring virtual brown bag lunch with senior executives for your top volunteer leaders. 

5. Create a point system based on number of hours volunteered or other inputs and have volunteers turn their points into rewards like company-branded merchandise. 

Showcase Employees’ Efforts 

6. Share stories and photos of great volunteers internally and externally. Develop a regular cadence of these stories and use communication vehicles that will reach as many employees as possible (e.g., intranet, posters in break rooms, e-newsletters, or company magazine). 

7. Create a digital badge to add to a recently recognized volunteer leader’s email signature. 

8. Highlight top volunteers during leadership or all-staff meetings, or at special company events. Post a photo and volunteer profile in high-traffic areas for both employees and guests, such as your main lobby or in elevator banks

9. Recognize an individual or team with the most volunteer hours during a certain time period. Use different communication vehicles to display an honor roll of volunteers by number of hours served, number of projects participated in, or number of projects led. The President’s Volunteer Service Award is a prestigious way to offer this type of recognition. Since 2003, it has been honoring individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too. 

10. Integrate public-facing recognition mechanisms into your strategy, such as  the Daily Point of Light Award or the Jefferson Awards. 

Go Big with Employee Recognition 

11. Dollars for Doers and team volunteer grant programs (contribution programs that donate grants to qualified nonprofits based on the level of employee/team involvement as volunteers or board members) offer individual or group financial incentives in the form of grants to the organization of his/her choice. Grants can vary from $100 to $25,000 per award. Create a formal application and judging process or crowdsource who should win the team volunteer grants from across your employee base.  

12. Another idea is to host an annual lunch, dinner or special event to highlight the work of top volunteers and volunteer leaders. Invite nonprofit partners to share their stories of volunteer impact to add moments of reflection to the event program.  

13. If your company engages employees in an annual event such as a day, week or month of service, award your top volunteers or leaders with an all-expenses-paid trip to a different market for next year’s event. They’ll get a chance to volunteer alongside new colleagues and bring back fresh ideas to their market.  

Need more employee recognition ideas? Don’t forget to check out our Global Volunteer Month toolkit for companies, which includes even more ideas for celebrating employees. Plus, Points of Light’s Corporate Services Solutions team is the go-to resource for community-minded companies looking to build and expand effective employee volunteer programs. We believe that companies, their employees, partners, vendors and customers can be drivers of transformative social change in communities around the world.  

Katy Elder
Vice President of Corporate Insights, Points of Light

Spending 20 years in the corporate social responsibility sector, Katy mixes creativity and strategy with expertise in employee engagement and corporate citizenship to develop resources and learning opportunities that advance corporate social impact.