I just received a photo of myself with Mayor Bloomberg from the 5th Anniversary NYC-CERT party held this summer. At the beginning of the event, hundreds of CERT members lined up to get a quick ‘grip and grin’ with the Mayor on the porch of his official residence, Gracie Mansion. I mention this photo not to show my close relationship with the Mayor (I literally had five seconds with him before the next person came in behind me), but instead to underscore the importance of these small rewards and recognition in keeping volunteers, like CERT members, engaged and involved — and feeling part of the City’s overall emergency effort.
Getting a photo with the Mayor like this can be very helpful in making citizen part-timers, such as CERT members, feel more part of a team. This photo is now in a frame on my office hanging along with my CERT graduation and Emergency Operations Center training certificates. My guess is that many of my fellow teammates are displaying the photo proudly. So, whether he enjoyed it or found it a chore, I think it was helpful to the CERT program for the Mayor to spend a better part of an hour shaking everyone’s hand, thanking us for our work and providing each CERT member with a personal photo with ‘the ‘boss’.
The value of these tokens are not limited to public sector volunteer programs. When I moderated a panel at the Red Cross in Washington, D.C. about disaster-related corporate volunteer programs, one of the consensus opinions of the business panelists was that “recognition for employee involvement — both small and large — can be very helpful in creating and sustaining these programs”.