If you’re a nonprofit, a corporation, or any organization working with volunteers, you need to know...
National Volunteer Month: What It Is and How to Celebrate It
Observance days and months are powerful tools to advocate for a better world. That is why the United States recognizes April as National Volunteer Month every year. It aims to celebrate and draw attention to the millions of Americans who volunteer to make their communities stronger.
In fact, 60.7 million people formally volunteered from September 2020 to September 2021, according to AmeriCorps. More amazingly, more than twice as many, 124.7 million, informally volunteered!
We can safely say that volunteering is the backbone of the American community and a critical component of the nonprofit model. That’s why it is so important to celebrate it and advocate for even more commitment!
National Volunteer Month is the perfect opportunity for organizations to honor all of those formal and informal volunteers. Tech tools like Golden volunteer platform make it easier than ever to deepen volunteer relationships throughout the month. The platform streamlines administration and recruitment while providing simple-to-use tools like a Day of Service function to work across stakeholders.
First, let’s learn all we need to know about National Volunteer Month, and then we will help you discover great ideas and tools for celebration.
What Is National Volunteer Month?
National Volunteer Month is an American observance designed to honor volunteers and call more citizens to service. Nonprofits across the country use the time to host different types of activities and events. They include:
Volunteer appreciation events, including celebrations or simple thank-yous for service.
Design specific events to call volunteers to serve, both in celebration and in an effort to create more community impact.
Fundraising drives, with the help of volunteers or for volunteer-driven programs.
Marketing to recruit more volunteers and to improve the nonprofit brand in the community.
Why Should You Participate in National Volunteer Month?
The event is national in scope and mandated directly by the President of the United States. This means that it receives a fair amount of media attention and social media buzz. It will pique volunteers’ interest in spending time with their favorite charities or finding a new one with which to work. Nonprofits should take advantage to host successful events.
You might think about personalizing meaningful gifts for your volunteers if your budget allows.
Also, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate volunteers. Volunteer turnover is very high in the United States. It is difficult to keep good volunteers coming back! One of the most important volunteer management activities is showing appreciation. It can improve your turnover rates.
When Is National Volunteer Month?
National Volunteer Month is April. It can be confused with National Volunteer Week, which is always the third week of April. Both events are important, and they are also interlaced with history.
National Volunteer Week came first, with President Richard Nixon mandating the observance by executive order in 1974. Later, we started observing the entire month of April as National Volunteer Month to make the event even more pronounced and to give even greater credence to the importance of volunteerism.
History of National Volunteer Month
We can go back even further with roots in Canadian history. Canada designated a National Volunteer Week in 1943 to recognize women helping with the World War II effort. The call for service helped ramp up volunteer outputs across the country.
In the United States, President H.W. Bush founded the 1000 Points of Light Campaign in 1990 to call volunteers to service and deepen community impact. We started celebrating a full National Volunteer Month at this time, and have every year since.
How to Participate in National Volunteer Month
The best ways to participate in National Volunteer Month are:
Invite volunteers both new and old to serve with you. Host events! As many as possible. You can recruit new people and create more impact.
Give thanks (see these volunteer appreciation ideas). There are dozens of ways to give thanks to volunteers, even if you are on a budget. You can host a luncheon, or simply send out personal text messages to your most loyal supporters thanking them for their support. If they are directly involved with service beneficiaries, maybe ask them to write a note of thanks directly to their favorite volunteers. That personal connection is the reason behind service.
Show your community just how much volunteers mean to you with media and social media blasts. This is a great way to honor a particular volunteer, telling their service story in a video or article.
More on Events: Consider a Day of Service Model
Tech tools can simplify your events considerably. Golden’s volunteer management software has a Day of Service functionality, for instance, that can streamline event planning and increase engagement. The system can help you whether or not you are focusing on virtual or in-person events, too. Both are meaningful, and you might consider hosting some of each!
The system has seamless integration with partners and external stakeholders so that you can invite corporate volunteers, community volunteers, and support agencies to your events. Those same organizations can present their own ideas for a Day of Service that align with your impact goals.
Golden’s award-winning software generates a report of service hours, impact, and even coordinates background checks and waivers if need be for your events. Using a program like this can save you substantial amounts of administrative time while making it easier to recruit new volunteers from different service demographics and organizations. Since it is a go-to resource for companies in need of corporate volunteer management software, it is a great place to attract new partnerships.
Some ideas for Day of Service events during National Volunteer Month include:
Park clean-ups. National Volunteer Month overlaps with Earth Day. This gives you an impetus to do something green, whether or not you’re an environmental organization. You can set a goal to pick up a certain amount of plastic litter, for example, and invite corporate teams, school teams, senior teams, and any others you can imagine to pick up trash around your waterways. Before tech innovations, tracking such an event would have been a headache! Now, the system will curate all your volunteers for you. All you will have to do is click a button or two to understand the hours logged and the impact made on your community.
Food delivery. Food relief agencies are vital to all of our communities. No matter the level of wealth in an area, there are always families and individuals struggling and hungry. Many of these community members cannot physically get to a food bank or relief center. They rely on the goodwill of volunteers to deliver packages to their homes. A great Day of Service idea during National Volunteer Month is to organize special delivery days to recruit volunteers to bring food to their neighbors. The Day of Service function on Golden has an integrated calendar capacity so that volunteers can sign up for different hours based on their availability. This will streamline an event like this, and make it simple to administer while offering flexibility for volunteers to find time to help.
Loneliness guardians. Millions of Americans live alone at home or in facilities. A simple, yet effective, Day of Service activity is to ask volunteers to spend an hour or two of their time to keep a senior or other lonely community member company. They can sign up to work virtually, over a call or on a video call. They can alternatively agree to visit a senior center or other institution to play cards or share a meal with a new friend.
Fundraisers. Day of Service functionality can be helpful for encouraging volunteers and stakeholder partners to set up fundraising events. They might even integrate fundraising into their service programs. If a corporate partner wants to host a daylong clean-up or tree planting event at a park, for instance, they might host a fundraising lunch afterward or a fair. Volunteers and board members can invite their families and enjoy different games and events while giving back with small fees. Another idea is to encourage corporate volunteers to host social media or crowdfunding fundraisers as a Day of Service.
Bring a friend. Organize a Day of Service to which it is attractive for volunteers to bring a friend or relative. This will make the event more fun for the volunteer. It will also help you cast a wider recruitment net!
Appreciation Ideas for National Volunteer Month
Showing appreciation is a key component of National Volunteer Month. There are probably thousands of ways to say thanks. Here are just a few ideas.
Say thank-you. Call your volunteers, one by one, and talk to them, telling them how grateful you are. If they don’t answer the phone, leave a heartfelt message. Again, you can recruit service beneficiaries to help you with this. If they work with children, for example, maybe ask the child they mentor to send a voice message or a quick video about how important the work is to them.
Send a card. Greeting cards are still very meaningful tools for showing appreciation. A thank-you card is a timeless, beautiful way to reach out to someone who has helped you. They are even better when personalized, with handwritten notes and multiple signatures from staff.
Give a present. Everyone loves a present! The best gifts are meaningful and useful, like a piece of apparel that the volunteers can wear (especially together for an appreciation photo).
Host a lunch. Food is a fantastic way to show appreciation. After a Day of Service event, you might provide a special picnic for your volunteers to socialize and share. A great touch is to invite board members and staff to speak at the event, or sit at tables and show their gratitude for everyone’s volunteer service.
Use a rewards service. Golden integrates Karats awards for platform users. Volunteers can earn points to win prizes, either in a general pool or in an organization-designed pool. You can launch a new Karats recognition program during National Volunteer Month, or add a special prize to your pool!
5 Facts About Volunteering that Further Prove its Importance
Maybe the existence of a whole month dedicated to honoring volunteer work is not proof enough for you? If so, here are 6 statistics about volunteering that will drive home the importance of advocating for more volunteerism.
Volunteering makes us happy. Yes, helping people releases serotonin and makes people happier! Humans have a natural need to give and to work with others. Countless studies have proven this fact. A British study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (2020) examined 70,000 people and came up with conclusive evidence. People who volunteer once a month are happier and less stressed.
It lowers blood pressure. Linked to that same idea, happiness lowers our blood pressure. There is also a link between volunteering and lower blood pressure because volunteering gets people to be more active and engaged.
Volunteering makes us more employable. Volunteers can list their service, and all the amazing skills learned through it, on their resumes. Service makes people more rounded, employable individuals, especially when a person does not have as much work experience.
It improves our confidence. We all fall into ruts in life when we feel less confident and capable. Volunteering is a fantastic way to boost self-esteem. The stakes are lower for a volunteer than for an employee, and you can feel good about what you have accomplished while building upon your soft skills.
Volunteering makes us enjoy work more. Companies that have corporate volunteer programs report that volunteering makes their employees happier and more content with work. They are more likely to stay in the position if they have paid volunteer time as a benefit. They also get better at their own job. Volunteering builds on leadership and teamwork skills, and helps people practice what they know.
Clean-up events are great volunteer day ideas, appealing to a wide segment of the community.
How to Start a Volunteer Program
If you don’t have a volunteer program, National Volunteer Week is an ideal time to launch one! When you use tools like Golden volunteer management software, it can be fairly simple and highly rewarding. Here are some basic steps.
Research community needs. You may have a great idea, but it is possible that another organization is already conducting similar work. It’s also possible that the community has more important needs. Research reports by social service agencies, local business councils, and other nonprofits in your area to identify what areas really need more volunteer support. Of course, your program should align with your mission, as well.
What do people care about? It is also important to consider what people actually care about. Interview a cross-section of community members and see how they want to volunteer! What are their interests? What are their skills? What change do they really want to see? Your volunteer events and programs should be something that the community wants to do and will help you accomplish.
Designate leadership and a mandate. You will want to have a few core leaders in your volunteer crew. Give them ownership by helping you design a mission statement and a strategic plan for a volunteer program. How many events will they aim for? How many volunteers? What types of impact are they striving toward?
Develop a recruitment and management plan. A tool like Golden can help you develop a recruitment and management strategy for your volunteers. What logistics are there? Do you need background checks? Waivers? Golden’s seamless integration can help you navigate the local, state, and national regulations for your program and support your recruitment and management process.
Volunteer matching. You might want to define what types of volunteers you are searching for. What skill sets are necessary? What passions and interests? It’s possible a corporate partner or another local organization aligns with your impact goals. Clearly defining your goals can help make matching easier.
Have an appreciation plan in place. Appreciation needs to happen regularly and often. You can define this strategy from the onset to ensure that you are dedicating the appropriate amount of resources toward its implementation.
National Volunteer Month Ideas in Practice
National Volunteer Month can be a fulcrum for volunteer engagement if you approach it the right way. No organization has time to add on extra work and events. However, you can take advantage of platforms like Golden, the world’s most awarded volunteer management software, to streamline new events.
No matter what type of organization you are – a nonprofit, a company, or a local organization – it is important to participate in volunteer work. If you are unsure of how to connect or how to create the right opportunities, you can use a tool like Golden to help you generate new ideas and partners.
You will be grateful year-round for the new connections, which are easy to manage on the platform with seamless Salesforce integration and other innovative capacities. Altogether, we can generate even more volunteer hours and more impact!