Thursday, March 11, 2010

Volunteer Recognition Luncheon vs Credit Card Rewards Points

So AMEX has jumped on the volunteer bandwagon. I think its great news. They are offering their members up to 10,000 AMEX rewards points per year for volunteering up to 100 hours (New York Times). Reading of this brought me back to a session at the U.K.’s Institute for Advanced Volunteer Management last October where there was much discussion over Disney offering tickets to their park to people who volunteered at specific organizations.

Some participants voiced a concern that it would water down what it is to be a volunteer. Some thought it could cause problems because volunteers would come to expect it. One person said they were just doing it to make money.

One person however made a very interesting point that volunteers were regularly rewarded for their efforts long before Amex started this program or Disney started giving away tickets to their parks. Volunteers at theatres often get free or reduced price tickets. Volunteer recognition luncheons come at a price. Volunteers at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver received a significant uniform to keep. In the grand scheme of things, the monetary value of the potential 10,000 points (~US$100) is not that much different than the monetary value of some of the ‘rewards’ traditionally offer to volunteers. Another person observed that the rewards in programs such as Amex’s and Disney’s are looked at differently by many because they are offered by… (play the scary theme music in your head)… corporations… rather than by the nonprofit themselves.

People volunteer for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes the reason they start is not the reason they continue. If a program such as this kick-starts someone into giving volunteering a try or gets them back into it after a long absence, all the power to it.

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