This applies as much to an employee as it does to a volunteer: People do not receive the recognition they deserve for their efforts. People need acceptance, approval (belonging), appreciation, attention, and affection (a pat on the back).
Islamic organizations often struggle at retaining human resources precisely because leadership forgets about positive reinforcements. If you volunteer for a project, and you never see the leadership except when they want to highlight your mistakes – chances are you won’t be back. Sadly, instead of acknowledging this, our leadership plays the ‘religion’ card. That means, you have to put up with continued negativity because it is “for the sake of Allah” and if you turn away, you are the one harming the community. This is a short-sighted attitude. Most volunteers aren’t lacking in the sincerity department, and this is best shown by the fact that they usually move on to volunteering for another project.
This positive reinforcement includes highlighting and appreciating (out loud and in public) the good job someone has done. It means recognizing them when they least expect it. And it most certainly means keeping them in the loop and part of the team. You can brag about them all you want, but if they feel alienated, you have lost them.
This also solves another problem: How do you correct a volunteer? It’s a predicament because if you seem critical they may not return. The answer is that you don’t always need to point out a negative behavior to correct it. You can compliment and recognize correct actions, such that a person focuses on doing those.
This recognition goes a long way in inspiring people. Recognition and inspiration aren’t just empty words or meaningless phrases. They’re not meant to just be thrown around as “good” things to talk about. They are tangible. Recognition is tangible. When it is done properly, it translates into inspiration.
It touches the emotions in a person and causes them to act. Are you inspired and motivated for your cause? Lead by example and set the tone to inspire others.