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The Best Ideas to Celebrate National Volunteer Week 2023
If you’re a nonprofit, a corporation, or any organization working with volunteers, you need to know about and take advantage of National Volunteer Week. It’s the perfect time of year to recognize your current volunteers and launch new volunteer projects!
Every year, the United States celebrates National Volunteer Week during the third week of April. The purpose of the designation is to honor and support people who already volunteer.
It is also a call of duty, directly from the president, for Americans to offer their service. In 2022, President Joe Biden declared: “I call upon all Americans to observe this week by volunteering in service projects across the country and pledging to make service a part of their daily lives.”
This is an amazing mandate, one that makes America truly unique. Americans volunteer more than any other people. About 42% of Americans volunteer annually.
National Volunteer Week is a great tool to use to better tap into that powerful potential. We have put together the best National Volunteer Week ideas for your organization. Also, we have linked how the best tech tools like Golden volunteering platform can help you advance and manage your projects.
The History of National Volunteer Week
President Richard Nixon designated the third week in April as National Volunteer Week in 1974 with an executive order. The presidents since Nixon have kept with the tradition, designating that same week as National Volunteer Week every year with an executive order from the White House.
The timeline dates back further, though, to events in colonial history and earlier American history:
1688: One of the first charitable organizations utilizing volunteers dates back to the 1680s in Canada. The Bureau des pauvres was a group of volunteers who organized after a devastating fire in Quebec to help victims.
1736: Benjamin Franklin founded the first volunteer firefighter house in Philadelphia.
1887: The United Way formed, followed by the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and the International Red Cross.
1961: President John F. Kennedy created the United States Peace Corps, establishing volunteerism within international policy and diplomacy.
What was the Timeline After the First National Volunteer Week?
More and more designations and events followed Nixon’s executive order for National Volunteer Week, cementing volunteerism’s place in America and the United Nations.
- 1985: The United Nations established International Volunteer Day on December 5 each year.
- 1990: In response to a call to service from President George Bush, Points of Light Foundation was formed. They become the nonprofit coordinator for National Volunteer Week and also for Global Volunteer Month, which is the entire month of April.
- 1993: President Bill Clinton signed an Act to create AmeriCorps, which engages more than 5 million Americans in service.
- 2001: The United Nations named 2001 the year of the volunteer.
Does Anyone Else Celebrate National Volunteer Week?
Many other countries have followed the American lead and named entire weeks and months for honoring service.
- The UK has a student volunteering week in June.
- Australia has National Volunteer Week in May.
- The Philippines considers December to be National Volunteer Month.
Why is National Volunteer Week Important?
National Volunteer Week is important for countless reasons. Here are the 4 principal ones.
- Volunteering makes us happy. There is no better way to improve a nation’s well-being outcomes than to support something simple like volunteering. Some British researchers in 2020 actually linked a monetary value to volunteer happiness. Ricky N. Lawton, et al, found that the well-being from volunteering was worth £911 GBP (about $1,120 USD) annually.
- Volunteering has tremendous value. Some 63 million volunteers contribute $200 billion to the U.S. economy every year.
- Volunteering makes us healthier. Countless studies show that volunteering connects us with the community and even lowers our blood pressure. This improves heart health and longevity.
- Volunteering is critical to democracy. Pluralism and civic life depend on volunteerism. Alexis de Tocqueville (1835) clearly outlined how free societies are only so because their citizens have the skills for self-governance. Americans learn these skills through volunteering.
Why You Should You Celebrate National Volunteer Week
One of the biggest problems that nonprofits have is volunteer recruitment and turnover. This is why everyone should take advantage of events like National Volunteer Week to recognize volunteers and recruit new ones, increasing overall engagement.
There is a sizable increase in volunteer interest in April because of the national designation. It receives a good amount of traditional media and social media attention.
Some specific National Volunteer Week ideas for you include:
- Show your love! Here are some general volunteer appreciation ideas.
- Seek free media. Send out press releases and social media posts (use the hashtag #NationalVolunteerWeek) to get some free marketing and recognize your volunteers.
- Create new events specifically for National Volunteer Week and invite recruits. Try using a tool to connect to interested corporate programs. Many companies use Golden for corporate volunteer management software and can find your events easily for a new partnership on the platform.
Suggestions to Use Tech Tools to Manage National Volunteer Week
You can take advantage of innovations like Golden volunteer management software to increase volunteer engagement during National Volunteer Week.
The system has a Day of Service functionality that supports nonprofits and corporations to host a campaign among all of their relevant, external partner organizations. With seamless integration, you can invite your corporate volunteers and others while recruiting new volunteers to your events. Organizations who volunteer with you can present their ideas for service and collaborate organically. The system calculates reports for service hours to you across all of your partner organizations, offers each of them free access to recruit, schedule, and track volunteer contributions, and even assures that waivers are signed if need be.
Some specific ideas for Day of Service events during National Volunteer Week include:
Tree planting. Invite an organization to help plant trees towards a local reforestation or community beautification goal. Day of Service functionality helps you track the number of volunteers for an event like this, and their specific outcomes. That way, you have real time data supporting your planting and community engagement goals!
Reading friends. People love opportunities to work with children, especially if the event is fun! With a Day of Service, you can ask volunteers from a particular corporate partnership or from the general community to sign up to read. You can host an event at a local venue like a school or library, or over a video conference call. Software like Golden takes the pain away from tracking such a loosely organized event. You will be able to view realtime impact, download a report, or automatically sync Golden impact data with your CRM after the event finishes to understand how many children attended and how many volunteers supported you. You can instantly show your appreciation by awarding Karats points (Golden’s award system) and automated recognitions.
Mentoring programs. A Day of Service is a great tool to organize mentoring events between schools and corporate volunteers. The built in calendar functionality helps stakeholders find time to meet up.
Relief events. If your community has experienced a disaster, or is suffering from ongoing disasters like food insecurity, you might take advantage of Day of Service functionality for relief activities. Ask volunteers to schedule an hour to pack food boxes, or claim a delivery route. The beauty of Day of Service is that they may only be offering a bit of time, but they feel appreciated as part of a larger effort that has a greater community impact.
What Can We Do to Celebrate in Person?
One aspect of National Volunteer Week is a call to service, for which Day of Service and similar tools can help tremendously. The other component is celebration. It is important to not only take advantage of the week to log more volunteer hours, but to show deep appreciation for the volunteers who have been helping you all throughout the year.
You can show appreciation either in person or online, depending on your time and budget. Here are some great National Volunteer Week ideas for in-person events.
Throw a party. Everyone loves a party, and this is the best way to show appreciation if you have the budget to do so. It also gives you a chance to socialize with volunteers you likely don’t often see during the hustle of program delivery. Giving time, energy, and food to people makes them feel wonderful and appreciated. It also helps them feel a sense of belonging to your organization, making them want to help you again in the future.
Awards. You can offer Best Volunteer awards for stand-out participants, or general awards for help. Golden provides a built-in rewards system, called Karats, which empowers volunteers to gain points toward rewards for their time and effort. You can pick a day during the week to recognize and honor Karats points in person!
Showcase. Everybody loves a heartwarming and inspiring story. Pick your best story and share it with your volunteer community, through an in-person speaker event or by compiling a video, and watching it together.
Host a National Volunteer Week Fair. Invite the entire community, including all potential new recruit organizations (schools, corporations, other nonprofits) to peruse a fair of volunteer opportunities. They can talk to your best volunteers and learn new ways to work with you. At the same time you are celebrating your volunteers and their achievements by helping them present what it means to them to work with you.
Write cards. Write e-cards, real cards, tweets, or anything like-minded that fits with your community to show them that you care! The simple act means a lot.
What Can We Do to Celebrate Virtually?
If you do not have the budget or the time for in-person events, try virtual celebration!
Virtual events. Create special volunteer-focused events online. This is a great way to try to recruit new volunteers who are interested because they read about National Volunteer Week in the media. They may be looking for a way to participate but hesitant to commit too much time. Volunteers can sign up to mentor a student, help train another volunteer, or create event materials for you from the comfort of their kitchen.
Virtual gifts. There are thousands of fun ways you can thank your volunteers with online gifts that will not break your budget. Send Amazon gift cards, host virtual cocktail hours, or give credit for online restaurant orders.
Social media blasts. Go out of your way to publicly thank your volunteers, as individually as possible, through social media. Send pictures from events and tag the participants, like other people’s posts, and retweet supportive comments.
Survey your volunteers. Sometimes the best recognition is asking people for their opinions! Send out a survey asking them to review their work and their general impressions of you. Ask them for their detailed advice. Of course, thank them for their support all the while.
Are You Ready to Upgrade Your Systems and Celebrate?
Now may be the time to upgrade your volunteer management software to the world’s most-awarded system, Golden. Doing so can help you take advantage of National Volunteer Week and all of the other important volunteer events you have on your annual calendar.
Golden is the best because it seamlessly integrates your contacts to cut administrative time to a fraction of what you may have spent before on managing volunteers. This makes retaining and recruiting your support so much simpler and so much more economical. Users typically save 1-3 days per week of time when they implement Golden in place of their existing volunteer management software or manual time tracking methods.
With the click of a few buttons, you will have new appreciation events planned for your volunteer group. You will have new events filled with recruits from within and beyond your community. And you will, as a result, be better at fulfilling your mission to help the people and places in your community.