June 2, 2013

Volunteer Recognition

Posted in Celebrations, Good news stories, Valuing Volunteers, Youth Volunteering tagged , , , , at 5:02 am by Sue Hine

Awards-Logo   local heroes

Recognition and appreciation of volunteer work throughout community organisations is something managers do every day in lots of different ways.  This month Volunteering New Zealand is heading into National Volunteer Week (June 16-22), a brief time to celebrate the contribution of volunteers to all parts of New Zealand’s social and cultural life.

There are other annual opportunities for public acknowledgement, from national honours to local civic awards and community-sponsored medals.  Two standout nation-wide programmes come via TrustPower and Kiwi Bank (as principal sponsor of New Zealander of the Year Awards).  Both programmes are competitive, involving nomination and judging at both local and national levels in a range of categories.

TrustPower Community Awards are run in 24 regions, and they cover five categories: Heritage and Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Arts and Culture, Sport and Leisure, and Education and Child/Youth Development.   Supreme winners in each region then vie for the title of National Awards Supreme Winner.  For 2012 the winner was Kaibosh, a Wellington-based organisation dedicated to daily redistribution of left-over food.

The catalogue of winners at regional level is an eye-opener on the range of community organisations and their achievements.  The Men’s Shed scored in Tauranga; in Dunedin the winner was the Neurological Foundation Southern Chair of Neurosurgery; a theatre group from the small town of Katikati took out honours in Western Bay of Plenty; and the ecological restoration project at Maungatautari was the winner for the Waipa District.  Runners-up and commendations are recorded too.

TrustPower’s award for Youth Community Spirit recognises secondary school students’ service to school and the community.  From the achievements noted in the citations these young people are the emerging leaders for a new generation.

New Zealander of the Year Awards focus more on individuals than organisations.  There is a top award for New Zealander of the Year, and others for a Young New Zealander and a Senior New Zealander. Then there are the Local Hero awards identifying everyday people doing extraordinary things in their local communities.   All of these engender significant local and national publicity, and recognition for individual and collective achievements.

In addition, the Community of the Year award provides groups with an opportunity to be recognised for their holistic contribution, rather than a focus on a particular sector.  The small town of Paeroa is the winner for 2012, for its determination to retain an active events calendar and to enhance heritage attractions.

The heart of this community really lies with the large number of volunteers whose can-do attitude has seen the town develop to be a safe and vibrant community. The contribution and energy of a large number of groups is in contrast to the small population.  It is this strong sense of community that is the key to the towns continuing growth and proves what can be achieved when residents share a common goal and work together harmoniously.

That’s a real illustration of what the spirit of community volunteering can achieve.

A study of winners and finalists for Community of the Year could reveal significant data on success factors – like leadership, collaboration and cooperation, strategic planning and implementation – because the achievements of Paeroa and other communities do not happen without effective leadership and management of a volunteer programme.

There’s no huge prize money offered from these award programmes, but the publicity and kudos will generate increased awareness to be translated into donor and funder interest and volunteer applications.

And when you scroll through the list of present and previous award winners it is very evident there are more things in community services and community development than NGOs filling the breaches in government health and welfare services.  So when we join the functions lined up for National Volunteer Week let’s give a nod to the way leaders and managers of volunteers make all things possible for volunteers.

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