When it comes to encouraging participation in your TRIO program, sometimes it’s helpful to offer incentives. Incentives can help drive excitement for your program activities as well as promote positive behavior. Tying incentives to specific actions can help participants to learn and grow within the program, building the skills necessary to be successful over the long term.
But incentives can be a fine line to walk. You must be careful that your incentives are not the primary focus of your program while at the same time offering items and experiences that enhance your program. How and when you offer these rewards should also be a consideration. Some incentives will be immediately gratifying, while others may take time and discipline to save up for. What is the best way to offer incentives in a TRIO program?
Providing Incentives Students Want
The types of incentives you offer will depend on what appeals to the individuals your program serves. Different age groups, economic backgrounds, cultures, and interests make each TRIO program unique. What’s exciting to a middle school student in the inner city will likely be completely different than what interests a first-generation college student. The key is to offer items and privileges that fit the interests of the individuals your program serves.
Incentives can be a fun way to acknowledge effort on a small scale as well as make a big statement for major achievements within your program. Some incentives you might consider include:
- Bag of chips
- Coke break
- Free hour of tutoring
- Admission for one to event (can be used for family member)
- Cap and gown rental
- Tablet, laptop, calculator loan
- Gift card to a restaurant
- Free ebook of choice
- Amazon gift card
- Gift certificate to grocery or drugstore
- Gift certificate to school store
- School tee shirt
- School sweatshirt
- Points credit for field trips
Most importantly, you will want to tailor your incentives to meet the needs and desires of the individuals in your program. Building an inventory of items and privileges that are useful to your program participants can help to encourage specific actions and behaviors.
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Using a Points System for Incentives
Once you’ve made the decision to offer incentives, your next consideration is how to make earning incentives fair and easy. Keeping track of who has earned incentives and who has received what they have earned should be a simple process.
However, because incentives can vary in value, it can be difficult to equate effort with their worth. Typically, smaller rewards come from minor actions, while big, exciting incentives require more focus and discipline to achieve. There is also the issue of building a stock of incentives, which can be problematic, depending on the types of incentives you offer.
A far better method for tracking and distributing incentives is to use a points system. Participants can accumulate points and use them to redeem incentives as part of a token economy. This can allow program admins to build and maintain a “store” of items and privileges that participants truly want.
Points can be physical or virtual. Some programs use physical tokens that can be redeemed. Others keep track of points via manual spreadsheets. Both of these methods can help build enthusiasm for program participation. A third method, however, can not only accurately track points earned and spent, but can also provide valuable data about the effectiveness of incentives. This third method is called a digital token economy.
Tracking Points With a Digital Token Economy
An electronic (or digital) system that allows you to monitor points transactions often called a digital token economy. TRiO Perks is software that helps program administrators to record points given and redeemed for incentives. Using a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you and your program assistants can make sure you are equitably rewarding individuals in your program. The software automatically tracks points given and redeemed and allows you to track participant behavior as well as incentive popularity. Because TRiO Perks is fully digital, you can award points anywhere – on a field trip, at an event, anywhere on campus, or even out in the community.
We’d love to show you just how easy it is to use a digital token economy for your TRIO program! Simply request a demo, and we’ll take you through TRiO Perks, step by step!