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The Need for Instant Gratification

September 5, 2014

social mediaSocial media is an interesting monster and I think we can learn a bit about volunteer recognition from it. When you post a picture or status update, you experience instant gratification when people leave a comment or “like” it. These affirmations fuel the desire for more. In some cases – to a manic level. We like the way if feels when people give us the thumbs up.

A quick story: my 12-year old son doesn’t do social media (he doesn’t even have a phone). Yet someone felt the need to establish an Instagram account and pretend to be him. In four days, he had 154 followers. The imposter seemed motivated to see comments, as they would respond quickly and post more comments. It spread like wildfire until I posted a note to the culprit which produced enough peer pressure to shut it down.

I share this story because it’s human nature to want to feel popular, appreciated and loved. I’m sure this silly seventh-grader thought it was fun to pretend to be someone else and get all the love and kudos that were waiting every time he/she turned on their phone. There is a positive we can take from this that applies to volunteer management.

I believe volunteers need that constant, ongoing and instant gratification for the work they do. Trouble is, as nonprofit managers we rarely make time to do it. It always falls to tomorrow’s to-do list. If you can make recognition a priority, it will go a long way towards sustaining your volunteers. The recognition need not be expensive – something simple and heartfelt will do the trick. It just must be genuine and timely!

Social media can help you do that. A Facebook post or text message after an event will help your volunteers reaffirm the work they do for your organization. A phone call (yes – a PHONE call!) just to say thanks may be the catalyst for them to come back again. Appreciation is one of the great tools we have to retain great volunteers.

Now we just need to get our young people to find a passion and stop wasting so many hours “liking” meaningless things on Instagram. Just think the impact these kids could make as volunteers working together for the good of the community! The affirmation they would experience would be so much more real and meaningful!

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