Recognition of volunteering in Scouting

“Volunteers are not paid. Not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.”

However recognition in itself can be a valuable motivational for our volunteers, whether we recognise their time, their effort, the added value they bring, or the competencies they gain. How and when this happens might be dependent on local circumstances and traditions, but it can be more impactful if happens among peers.

Recognition should have a ceremonial aspect, regardless of the location. And it should be personal, recognising the value and scope of a volunteer’s contribution, particularly when they contribute above and beyond what might generally be expected of them – and especially if they are coming to the end of their time in a particular role, or in Scouting in general.

It is wonderful to have an intrinsic motivation so strong that we are nearly altruistic in our commitment to the Scout Movement. We should not rely solely on our volunteers’ goodwill and servant attitude when we engage them in our voluntary positions. If we show how the volunteering positions helps them to progress personally and builds competencies that they can use outside of Scouting and later on in life, we will surely end up with even more committed and engaged volunteers.

If we are to engage volunteers on a constant basis we need to show what’s in it for them. When we are clear and concise about the role we are recruiting for, and the competencies to be gained in that role, we can be clear about the path of recognition for achieving those competencies even before the volunteer starts in their position.

Recognition of learning, development and competencies gained

In Europe for the recent years there have been some major improvements in terms of recognition of non-formal and informal learning in formal educational institutions. Also in working life, employers seem to have taken a big step in recognizing the competencies and experience gained through volunteering. For more information you can go and familiarize yourself with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) by the Council of Europe that serves as a basis for National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) that are done nationally to match the non-formal and informal learning with the formal one.

The Guides and Scouts of France have produced a wonderful tool called ‘Valorize toi!’ / ‘Empower yourself!’ that is an easy-to-use A4-size way of self-recognition for the skills gained through Scouting. It can be a valuable tool regardless of the phase that the volunteer is in but it has most effect when one figures out their skills and future ambitions with this tool or some other way before they agree to start in a new position.

Different ways to recognize volunteering efforts in Scouting

  1. merit badges or medals: most national scout organisations have some kind of symbolic way of recognizing volunteering efforts, that can be visible in the scout uniform, such as medals, badges, pins, decorations or color-coding. This provides a cost-effective but powerful way of recognizing effort that is understandable within the movement.
  2. gifts or benefits: although volunteers are not paid, it is not forbidden to give out gifts or benefits of monetary value, such as gift certificates, delicacies, flowers, art or scouting equipment.
  3. competency-based badges or certificates: virtual badges such as Open Badges are a low-cost and very scalable solution solution for recognizing gained competencies. Other option is to give out certificates some sought-after competencies such as project management, team leadership, change management, strategic leadership or educating young people.
  4. detailed description of volunteering positions in CV or LinkedIn: depending on the preferences of the individual, achievements and merits of volunteering can be added to professional resumes to illustrate what the person is capable of. This has the potential to increase volunteer’s employability and promotability in professional contexts.
  5. letters of recommendation and volunteering certificates: particularly if the volunteers has signed up for and completed a particular project, it is a good practice to give out a “volunteering certificate” where the achievements of the individual are clearly highlighted and explained. These can also function as letters of recommendation where the official representative of the organisation recommends the volunteer for similar roles.
  6. Europass, youthpass or national recognition tools if they are applicable: for some volunteers, gaining recognition in a format that’s more widely accepted, could act as an important reward for volunteering efforts. Using these frameworks do not only benefit the individual, but they provide more visibility for the frameworks also – and for the recognition of learning in non-formal environments.

Complementary readings

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.