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How to run an awesome awards ceremony for your volunteers

An awards ceremony is a great way to celebrate your volunteers and let them know that they’re valued.

It’s a chance to recognise people’s achievements and share stories that will motivate and inspire everyone in your organisation.

Whether this is your first event or your fiftieth, or whether you’ve got 10 volunteers or 1,000, these tips will help make sure your awards ceremony goes off without a hitch.


Get the basics in place

If you haven’t organised an awards ceremony before, there are a few essential things that you’ll need to arrange first.


Agree and set up your process for accepting nominations. Will you use a paper or online form (or both)?


Choose a panel of judges and agree the judging criteria.

Think carefully about who you’d like represented on the panel: volunteer managers? Volunteers? Staff? Trustees?


Agree and publish you timetable as soon as possible, including the deadline for nominations.


Plan, plan, plan

You can’t start planning your event too early.

However detailed your project plan, unexpected things will be thrown at you.

Build in as much time as you can, especially for things that you need other people to sign off such as print materials – as a rule, however long you think it might take, double (or triple!) it. Make sure everyone involved knows their deadlines.

If you need to look for a venue, bear in mind that this can be one of the most challenging tasks – it’s a big decision, so don’t rush into booking something you’re not sure about.


Tailor your communications to your volunteers

As you’d expect, organising a volunteer awards ceremony involves lots of communicating with volunteers.

But your volunteers might be a diverse bunch of people – depending on your organisation, they could be spread across different teams.

Tailoring your messages and tone to each audience can be time consuming, but you’ll reap the reward of more people getting involved in the nomination process.


Set targets – and be ambitious!

How many nominations do you want to get?

If you’ve run an awards ceremony before, aim to improve on last year’s total. A challenging target can help focus everyone involved – you’ll be surprised what you can achieve.


Get your colleagues involved

People love being asked to help – and with so much to do when planning and organising your event, you’ll need these extra pairs of hands.

Asking your staff and volunteers for help won’t only lighten the load, but it’s a great way to showcase the amazing volunteers across different teams and areas of your organisation.


Make everyone feel special (even if they don’t win)

Think about ways to recognise everyone that’s nominated.

You could have different levels of thanking, such as winners and special commendations.

And if you write to everyone in the running to let them know they’re nominated, they’ll feel special and valued, even if they haven’t won.


Start thinking about next year now

With your focus on this year’s event, turning your attention to next year might not be top of your list. But this is a great time to note down all the things that you’ve not been able to do this year, so that you don’t forget them when you’re planning for next year.

And any videos and photos that you collect this year will be a brilliant way to promote next year’s awards.

Further information

About the writer

This guide was written by Becky Warburton, who organises Cancer Research UK’s annual Flame of Hope Volunteering Awards.

Other resources

The Quick Guide to Thanking Volunteers is a free download for NCVO members. It includes more tips on how to recognise and celebrate your volunteers.


Page last edited Nov 04, 2016 History

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