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Peace Bridge from e-architect.co.uk

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”   …C.S.Lewis

When John approached Emma about nominating her for a volunteer award, she adamantly shook her head. “No way, no. I don’t want the recognition. I don’t do this for any praise, I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I know, Emma,” John replied. “But you are perfect for the award. I know you can win.”

Nominating a volunteer for a local, regional or national award is a big deal. We all know volunteers who deserve recognition and ironically, the ones who embody the spirit of the awards are the ones who don’t want the “fuss.”

So, how do we convince deserving volunteers to let us nominate them and should we bother with it anyway? Is winning an award something we should boycott on principal or does it have a place?

You know the volunteer who immediately comes to mind when thinking about nominations. You happen to peek in on them and they are quietly doing the most amazing work. As you watch them, you envision the entire room as a bridge, constructed by an unassuming volunteer who is changing the life of the person they are helping, one plank, one suspension wire at a time. You wish you could capture that perfect scene in a bottle or at least on film, so that you could show it worldwide. “Here!” you would shout, holding up the moment. “Here is the perfect piece of volunteering. This is what it is all about!”

Perhaps awards are not exactly what we are aiming for, but if they are an avenue to tell a volunteer’s story, to shed light on our volunteers’ accomplishments, and to galvanize others, then awards can serve a purpose. And explaining that to a reluctant volunteer just might convince them to allow you to tell their story.

“Emma,” John continued, “I know that you are not an attention seeker. Your work speaks for itself. “But if telling your story can inspire others to step forward and volunteer, wouldn’t that be a worthwhile thing?”

“I just don’t want to do this for the wrong reason,” Emma returned skeptically.

“I agree wholeheartedly,” John agreed. “We’re not going to make a big fuss. We just want to show others that volunteering impacts our clients in the most profound way. I know that telling your story will do just that.”

And so, with the assurance that a nomination was for reasons that would never include self-promotion, Emma agreed to allow her exceptional story to be told. She not only won, she caused others to get involved.

A very wise person once told me that the secret to nominating volunteers for awards is to find the “angle.” What sets the volunteer apart? What obstacles has the volunteer overcome by volunteering? What has the volunteer done to initiate change, improve a program, or solve a problem? What about this volunteer’s story must be shared with others?

But nominations can also be written to influence people. By hearing amazing volunteer stories, potential volunteers can seek an opportunity to be part of that incredible bridge building. And many folks just might want to join a group of “award-winning volunteers.”

Nominating volunteers can:

  1. Elevate volunteers within the organization
  2. Demonstrate the importance of volunteer involvement
  3. Show the volunteers that they are valued
  4. Inspire potential volunteers to join
  5. Gather stories highlighting the impact of volunteers

Although most volunteers shy away from the spotlight, their compelling work can often motivate others to step forward.

And if awards can work for us,  then let the nominations begin!