Key Tips and How-Tos

Understand what is in it for them

Build relationships and communicate often

Instill a team spirit

Coach for success

Present growth opportunities

Continually recognize


Understand what is in it for them


  • Take the time to get to know your program personnel. Talk to them or have them complete a personal inventory providing you with information such as motivation for volunteering, personal interests and strengths and why they chose to teach the Arthritis Foundation programs.

  • See: Sample Personal Inventory tool

  • Solicit input about retention and recognition strategies from key program personnel or a task force consisting of active program leaders, instructors and trainers.


Build relationships and communicate often

  • Remember that first impressions count. Retention begins with your first contacts during recruitment and training.  Be friendly, welcoming and responsive to calls, and ensure that there is a good fit between the person and the tasks you want done.

  • See: Chapter 2.3: Resources on Recruiting Leaders and Instructors

  • Realize that any important relationship takes an investment of time and effort to maintain it over time.
  • Communicate throughout the year to keep people engaged. Use periodic e-mails, phone calls, newsletters, etc.

  • See: Examples from the Field to learn how the Arthritis Foundation Indiana, Michigan and Northeastern Ohio Chapters support their program personnel

  • Send cards for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions. This will help to build a friendlier and more personal relationship, helping them feel you value them as people.
  • Allow them an opportunity to share their story, ideas and suggestions with you. This will not only help you get to know them better, but it also will provide them an opportunity to be heard and feel valued.
  • Know everyone’s name and how to spell and pronounce them correctly!

  • See: How To Retain Your Program Personnel tip sheet



Instill a team spirit

  • Share your passion for the mission of improving the lives of people with arthritis.
  • Help people feel important and instill a sense of pride and ownership. Educate all program personnel about how what they are doing contributes to improving the lives of people with arthritis. Share your goals. For example, how many people you are trying to reach? Show how they are playing an important part in helping to achieve those goals.
  • Make it fun to be a part of the program team!


Coach for success

  • Ensure all instructors and leaders clearly understand their roles and responsibilities and how they relate to staff roles. Have clear expectations about their commitments.

  • See: the Whose Job Is It? tip sheet for sample responsibilities

  • Contact newly trained individuals to provide support and encouragement.
  • Provide mentoring opportunities and other technical assistance as needed. For example, match a new trainer with a more experienced one, or have them co-train with an experienced trainer for the first training
  • Provide periodic networking and professional development opportunities.
  • Implement the certification process with all program personnel and provide recertification training.

  • See: the AF Certification and Recertification Requirements Tip Sheet

  • Track their activities. For example, record when they were trained and taught in Team Approach. This will help you monitor their activity level and workload and help you with your retention and recognition activities.
  • Give feedback. Report the results of periodic site-visits, any class participant feedback and compiled class statistics

  • See:  Chapter 2.9 Resources for Monitoring Reach and Chapter 2.10 Resources for Quality and Risk Management

  • Hold them accountable for their responsibilities, such as reporting class data.

  • See: How to Retain Your Program Personnel tip sheet to learn more about how to support your program personnel



Present growth opportunities

  • Provide promotion” opportunities. For example, encourage those who are competent and enthusiastic leaders and instructors to become trainers, or ask your high-quality trainers to take on other leadership roles and responsibilities.
  • Provide those who are interested in becoming more involved with the organization an opportunity to do so.  For example:

    • Invite them to other organization activities such as the annual meeting.
    • Ask your lead program trainers to assist with site visits or mentoring newer leaders.
    • If they have a particular skill set, encourage them to become involved with different aspects of volunteering for the AF, such as leading the warm-up the morning of the Arthritis Walk or becoming an arthritis advocate.
    • Recruit them to serve on an AF or state arthritis committee to help support and expand program activities.
    • Institute specific time limits for these added duties so they do not think they are committed indefinitely.

    See: How to Provide Growth Opportunities tip sheet for more ideas on how to keep your program personnel involved


Continually Recognize

Features of effective recognition 

 Your recognition-giving will be most effective if it is:

  • Given for specific behaviors you want repeated. Reward those instructors and leaders who have taught the largest number of classes, provided class data in a timely basis, taught the greatest number of participants or provided the longest years of service.
  • Frequent and timely.

    • Make recognition a habit. Plan for different ways throughout the calendar year to give recognition. Recognizing should become second nature and part of your overall management plan.
    • Say thanks at every opportunity—in every email, phone call, newsletter—after training, immediately after each class or workshop.
    • Give praise on the spot or as soon as possible after the achievement. The longer you wait, the less effective you’ll be. Do not save up for the annual banquet!

  • Given via a variety of methods that match the recipients and their actions.

    • Give recognition in a way that matters to the person. Some prefer public recognition, some prefer private. Learn each person’s preferences, motivators and interests so you can match rewards and gifts to the person. For example, are they a sports fan? Coin collector? Scrap booker?
    • Compliment the little things, as well as the big things.
    • Match the type of recognition to the level of achievement.
    • Be consistent. Make sure people who are doing the same thing get the same type of recognition.
    • Realize that even simple incentives are valuable. According to more than 500 leaders, instructors and trainers who completed the 2006 AF-CDC Program Delivery Needs Assessment Survey, top suggestions included small gifts, resources to help with teaching classes, items that could be given to class participants and AF-branded items and clothing.  Branded items not only provide recognition but also can build awareness about arthritis.

    See: How to Provide Recognition tip sheet for additional results from the survey and other recognition ideas and AF Logo Incentives list

  • Specific. Pay attention to details, and be specific in indicating exactly what the person did that was important. For example, say, “Thanks for recruiting 20 new participants for the AF Aquatic program,” instead of just, “thanks for doing a good job.”
  • Sincere. If you do not mean it, don't say it. It will not be meaningful to the recipient, and if you praise sub-standard performance, others who are doing good work will feel undervalued.



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