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National Association of 
Voluntary Services Managers

Lead, promote and develop best practice in 
Volunteer Management in the NHS and Healthcare

Management of Volunteers

 

Rewarding volunteers

 

Rewarding volunteers and recognising the value of their work is key to making volunteers feel wanted and useful and therefore increasing retention levels and their loyalty to your Trust. There are often strong financial restrictions on VSMs which limit what they can do but not all schemes require a large financial outlay.
 
What types of reward / recognition are acceptable?
 
  • Social gathering– this could be anything from Christmas party, a coffee morning, a day trip away or a lunch out. By funding these sorts of events, the Trust is able to clearly demonstrate the regard it has for its volunteers. In particular it is worthwhile inviting senior managers, directors etc.
  • Gifts – long service or hard work on a specific project might be rewarded as a one off with flowers, chocolates or a meal out.
  • Certificates / badges / awards – these might be for long service or for a particular length of time volunteering (for example a 100 hour volunteering certificate).
  • Publicity – write articles about what a great job volunteers in general or particular are doing for submission to your Trust’s magazine.
  • Personal thanks – don’t underestimate how much a letter of thanks from a manager (either the VSM, Department manager or even the Chief Executive) can mean to a volunteer.
 
What types of reward are not acceptable?

 

VSMs must be careful to avoid rewarding volunteers financially or ‘in kind’ for their work as this can result in the creating of an informal contract between the NHS Trust and the volunteer. This has wide ranging legal implications which could result in the volunteer claiming to have been ‘employed’ at which point they would be covered by employment law and would be entitled to the minimum wage for any work that they had done. More information about volunteering and the law can be found in an excellent document produced by Volunteering England www.volunteering.org.uk/resources/publications/volunteersandthelaw however any misunderstanding can be avoided by following some basic principles:

 

Avoid giving volunteers income

 

Make sure that volunteers are receiving reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses only, collect receipts and avoid payment of a flat fee.

 

Reduce perks that could be seen as consideration (payment in kind)

 

For example, training must be relevant to the role and can’t be offered as a reward after a specific length of service or hours volunteered (although you can stipulate that volunteers must show some sort of commitment to their role before they would be considered for specific training opportunities). Any minor perks should be described as purely at the discretion of the organisation, rather than an enforceable right the volunteer gains as part of the relationship