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  Award Versus Reward?
What is the difference between award and reward?

Volunteer, staff or community member recognition is the crucial process of rewarding and motivating the people who have contributed positively to your community. It's a crucial area for any community manager and you are quite right to make a distinction between awards and rewards.

Here are some definitions which may help evince the differences between these two ways of recognising the people who make your community "happen".

1) Awards

"Awards" are the periodic provision of tokens of appreciation or symbols of recognition to individuals. Awards can take place both in a group and a one-to-one basis, but in either instance they usually are publicly presented. Awards generally fall into two categories.

The first is 'tangible items' in the way of merchandise or gifts, which might include:

Group photographs
Items of clothing, such as T-shirts, caps, etc.

The second category is 'events', including:

Lunches and dinners
Parties and celebrations
Field trips e.g. to the organisation’s offices

Awards are particularly useful in generating a sense of bonding or group involvement among those who do not often have an opportunity to gather together or for whom sharing their togetherness is otherwise difficult. Awards are good short-term “bonding” or motivating tools at a group level. In the case of events, often there is a mutual appreciation and recognition of everyone else's contribution to the team effort or goal.

2) Rewards

"Rewards" are the more intangible day-to-day activities of recognition and motivation that are given to individuals to encourage them and to acknowledge their contributions. As such, rewards tend to be less formal, more private and more personal.

Example of rewards include:
Saying 'Thank You'.
Giving respect and equal status to volunteers and/or staff.
Maintaining a personal interest in the volunteer, staff.
Spending time and effort in supervision.
Giving the individual more responsibility.
Spotlighting a community member on the front page of your site.
Sending a personal message to a community member thanking them for their participation. Rewards tend to be more effective long-term motivators of individual volunteers, staff or community members -- the “feel good” factor.

The Recognition Process

In conducting both the above systems of recognition, there are a number of principles to keep in mind.

These include:

Granting the recognition in a public forum, preferably among the peer group of the volunteer, staff or community member.
Timing the recognition (particularly rewards) so that it is as close as possible to the achievement of the individual that is being recognized. Recognition delayed is a much less effective form of reward. It is this factor that makes day-to-day rewards for good behavior so important.
Tailoring recognition to the individual. Attempt to determine what type of recognition would be most meaningful to the particular individual. Some will prefer the more public type of 'thank you' (award); others will better appreciate the smaller private recognition (reward).
Making sure that recognition is given sincerely. An artificial or 'slick' ceremony will be detected and resented. If you don't really mean it, don't do it.
Making sure that recognition is fair. If you reward people who are not performing well you will de-motivate those who are.

We hope this has been helpful, and should you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to let us know.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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