How to award our awesome volunteers at the wildlife refuge!!
January 29, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

What to get for 5 fantastic volunteers as a year-end gift/award for having worked the most hours at our Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Northwest/near Olympia, WA?

The recipients of the gifts are:
-baby-boomers or elderly folks
-interested in birds, wildlife, habitats...think migratory birds, salmon, etc.
-interested in conservation issues surrounding Puget Sound, estuaries, rivers
-like to get outside, walking, birding, photographing (nothing too extreme...)

We can spend $30-45 dollars on 5 gifts (can all be the same thing or variations on a theme), and $100 dollars for the one who gets THE MOST hours this year (ideally unique from other gifts).

They are already receiving a commemorative patch. In the past we've given framed artwork, personalized/commemorative blankets.

I'm interested in any and all ideas: gift certificates, "experiences", commemorative items which we could have made locally (embroidered things, printed things, etc.), really great books.

Broad suggestions or specific authors, artists or stores welcome!

Thanks for your ideas!
posted by dahliachewswell to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Some kind of private hike/tour of the refuge with some really expert/senior staff member?
posted by Perplexity at 10:53 AM on January 29, 2009

The organization I've volunteered for for the last 6 years has a deal with Eagle Optics, whereby volunteers get a good discount on house-brand items, and a smaller discount on other brands; the binos I have now (a discontinued version of these) were listed at around $350, and I got them for about $150. Lifetime guarantee, too. Perhaps your org could set up something similar for your most-hours folks, perhaps in combination with a gift card.

We get cool enamel pins if we were on a team that saw the most number of species in a day, the most number of raptors in a day, etc; 5, 10, 15 etc.-year volunteers get and Extra-Special enamel pin and speechifying at the annual banquet.

Do they all have the most recent editions of various field guides for your region/ecosystems?

No-brainer (to me; YMMV): gift card for REI.
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on January 29, 2009

As a boomer interested in wildlife, conservation, etc., the last thing I need is another dust catcher, but a donation in my name to a conservation group, or a brick on a path made up of all of the volunteers that represented the hours of service I'd done, or a patch on a quilt would make me happy. Something that shows appreciation for the work your volunteers have done that other people can see and enjoy would be good.
posted by clarkstonian at 11:52 AM on January 29, 2009

If you're going to go the gift certificate route, I'd go with The Alpine Experience vs. REI - it's local to Olympia instead of up in Tacoma and locally owned instead of a big chain (not that I don't shop at REI too but it's nice to support the little guys when you can). Once place I volunteered had yearly pins made up for the volunteers to wear on their uniforms or hats or whatever. So people who had been there five years had five pins to wear. Similar to what rtha's talking about.

To be honest, depending on the group dynamics, I'd think a nice dinner out with all the volunteers and the staff that worked closest with them would be pretty cool, especially if they've been all over the place and haven't had a chance to get to know each other. It avoids the "one more thing to dust" / "another one of those" problems that you run into with more mature volunteers and lets them all get to spend some non-wildlife refuge time together. Or, depending on the facilities available - a nice dinner in. Either catered or homemade by staffers but held after hours at the Refuge - there's always a little thrill at being someplace after hours, doing something unusual for the setting. My sister used to help out with lock-ins at the Aquarium and it was as much a thrill for her and the other adults as it was for the kids.
posted by macfly at 2:30 PM on January 29, 2009

a donation in my name to a conservation group

Yes, that's what I was thinking. Do your research, though. Some are bad news: they will sell your contact info and generate kilos of glossy, non-recyclable junk mail for the recipients every year until they finally move and their address change expires.

In general, the cuter the animal on the promo materials, the more likely they are not to give a shit about the cause(s) they promote....
posted by quarantine at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2009

A gift card to alpine experience is definitely on my mind.

As for the dinner: the awards are being presented at a dinner function, so that's already covered.

They're a hard group to buy for because they spend more time out and about on the refuge that the staff do and many have been working here longer than us. Also, most of them are very up to date with all their birding gear and guides.

A lot of good ideas, thank you!
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2009

I'm a bit hesitant about this suggestion, because your volunteers may already have read these books, but Lyanda Lynn Haupt's books are so good that I have to recommend them. Her first was Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds; her second was Pilgrim on the Great Bird Continent. You can read about her and her books on her web site.

She's from part of the country, though - which increases the chance that these books will be old news.
posted by jeri at 5:18 PM on January 29, 2009

The way to give each volunteer an excellent gift is to.... ask them! "We're going to get you a gift card. What store would you like?"

I say this because the (one and only) time I was awarded a volunteer's gift, they asked me, and I named a large, popular bookstore. Every time I went in for a book and used the gift card, I loved them for their gift!
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:44 PM on January 29, 2009

If it was me, I'd love a photo (a larger one, maybe 8x10) of some of the wildlife we rescued or some of the work we did. Or of the refuge itself. Cheap and personal!
posted by lucydriving at 7:10 PM on January 29, 2009

I'm glad the answers keep trickling in, very helpful!

Unfortunately, part of the whole schtick is that the "winners" are a secret. Apparently it leaked out last year and there was actually an uproar. I'm planning on doing some covert information gathering though.

I like the photo idea a lot, maybe as something to augment a gift card...
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2009

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