How to Provide Recognition


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In the 2006 AF-CDC Program Delivery Needs Assessment Survey, more than 500 leaders, instructors and trainers were asked what types of incentives they would like to see as part of a recognition program.  Below, in order of preference, are their suggestions:


Leaders/ Instructors suggested the following:

  • Small gifts such as:

    • T-shirts
    •  Gift cards
    • Pens
    •  Notepads
    •  Gas cards
    •  Dinner with door prizes
    •  Spa treatment
    •  Ball caps
    •  Stress balls

  • Resources such as:

    • Updated educational/ instructional materials like audiovisual materials such as the new Take Control with Exercise DVD, books, AF publications, Arthritis Today magazine subscription, online educational updates and newsletter
    • Exercise aids and equipment like appropriate music for the exercise classes, balls or scarves for class, wrist weights, therabands, water shoes and on-line educational updates.

  • Items for class participants including:

    • Pens,
    • Pencils,
    • Notepads,
    • Tote bags,
    • T-shirts,
    • Water bottles,
    • Jar openers,
    • Any logo items,
    • Awards and certificates (“Perfect Attendance” and certificates of completion),
    • Small tokens,
    • Pain management tools such as heating pads and Epsom salts to soak in
    • Updates on new products and care


  • Anything! A simple thank you, personal note or extra surprise.


  • Arthritis Foundation contact and support including:

    • Providing a specific contact person to go to with questions, more regular contact and support, more positive input and verbal recognition and more opportunities to get involved with and interact with AF staff and other instructors and volunteers.
    • Ongoing training and mentoring, recertification for first aid and CPR along with pool safety classes and visits from an experienced trainer to monitor and evaluate teaching techniques
    • Networking and social activities such as opportunity to attend special events, local, semi-annual get-togethers for more information; seminars/lectures; volunteer picnic, lunches, coffees, Holiday brunch.

  • Arthritis Foundation logo clothing/Items including:

    • T-shirts that say “Certified Arthritis Foundation Instructor”
    • Hats
    • Mugs
    • Nametags
    • Business cards
    • Vests
    • Lapel pins
    • Towels


See: the list of AF branded items


  • Monetary support including:
  • Payment for services
  • Free training in exchange for teaching classes
  • Reduced fee for AF courses
  • Free AF membership; mileage reimbursement
  • Postage to mail information or certificates to group members
  • Scholarships for persons who cannot afford a class


  • Other public recognition including:
  • Professional certificates that can be framed
  • Highlighting an instructor in a publication or newspaper article in newspaper
  • Plaque or presentation in front of the class



Trainers suggested similar types of incentives but placed a higher priority on receiving AF- branded items and clothing. Their suggestions included:


  • AF Branded Items/Tokens of Appreciation including:
  • Cups
  • Umbrellas
  • Towels
  • Tote bags
  • Name badges or tags
  • Water bottles
  • Bracelets
  • AF Logo Clothing such as shirts that are engraved with AF Trainer


See: the list of AF branded items


  • Recognition Activities such as:
  •  Pins for hours served
  • Recognition dinners or other form of “Thank You Event”
  • Recognition in newsletter
  • Write up in local paper
  • Note to employer
  • Public or peer recognition about amount of time volunteered and number of people served
  • Awareness in community about participants served


  • More Interaction with AF including:
  • More regular contact with staff
  • More opportunity to be part of AF program planning and to feel a part of the AF team
  • More help from the local AF office

Also mentioned was the importance of better communications and networking opportunities with other trainers. The trainers also suggested gas money and other stipends, marketing resources and help with recruiting leaders, professional development activities and educational materials, as well as tokens of appreciation to give to class participants.




Ideas for Public Recognition

  • Provide awards and prizes such as plaques, pins and professional certificates.
  • Give certificates of services at the end of the year and special awards for outstanding performance.
  • Publicly praise and acknowledge the person’s good work and ideas during committee meetings, on the day of classes or during other events.
  • Use brag time during meetings to brag on someone in the room and tell everyone you expect three brags to follow yours. It makes everyone feel appreciated.
  • Acknowledge personal achievements or accomplishments, such as promotions, marriages, births, etc., as well as accomplishments by their family members.
  • Feature them in your local newsletter.
  • Publish a program newsletter that highlights both the overall program and individual accomplishments.
  • Nominate outstanding individuals for community service awards.
  • Submit a story idea and pictures to a local newspaper.
  • Take out an ad in the local newspaper listing outstanding individuals and thanking them for their service. You might be able to get a small business to pay for the ad.
  • Invite them to your board meeting to be recognized.
  • Have a celebration/recognition night on a yearly basis, and model it after the Oscars.
  • Name a prestigious award after a volunteer and place photos of receiving the award in the newspaper.
  • Invite their spouse to any special recognition and recognize their spouse for allowing them the freedom of being a volunteer.
  • Send a letter of acknowledgement to employers, letting them know about the person’s contributions to your organization. Invite management to any special recognition ceremony
  • Create a “Wall of Fame” Bulletin Board with photos and mementos of program personnel.
  • Make them the “Star of the Day,” and announce their success.

Ideas for Private Recognition

  • Send cards by postal mail. Inexpensive cards can be bought from the dollar store.
  • Remember birthdays/anniversaries with a card.
  • Send hand-written thank you notes.
  • Use voice mail after hours to leave a nice message they will find when they get to work the next morning.
  • Use post-it notes to leave message on their car or on other items.
  • Honor the anniversary of them joining the organization.
  • Take them to lunch if they do not want to be publicly recognized.
  • Give complimentary tickets for theatrical productions and sports events and other donated gifts or incentives, and make sure to match the gift to their interests.
  • Provide reference letters.
  • Give scholarships, tuition grants and paid attendance at meetings and conferences. These are growth opportunities that give a sense of professional status.

Fun Activities and Food

  • Host potlucks, picnics, coffee and dessert meetings and other fun events.
  • Conduct periodic recognition breakfasts, lunches, banquets or dinners.
  • Give a breakfast for your program personnel to kick off the season of classes. Use this event as an opportunity for media coverage.
  • Have a birthday cake at monthly or quarterly meetings.
  • Make up your awards. For example, give a “Caught in the Act of Caring Award” or a “Pat on the Back Award.”
  • Make creative and festive e-awards to send to them via email.
  • Introduce new program personnel with a profile that includes fun facts about them. This makes them feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Use candy and treats-
    • Tootsie Roll – for “the role they play”
    • Lifesavers and Smarties – for “being one”
    • Dum-Dums – for a funny mistake
    • Mints – for “commit-mints”
    • $100,000 candy bars for “being worth a $100,000”
    • Snickers – for “making people laugh”
    • M&M’s – for being “marvelous & motivated”
    • Lollipop – for “licking every challenge”
    • Raisins – for “raisin the bar”
    • Fortune Cookies – for “how fortunate we are to have you”
    • Gum – for “sticking to it “
    • Cherry Pie – for “we would have been the pits without you!”
    • Cake – for “you take the cake” – I have gained so much from you” – “you are an angel (cake)”


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