Attention, non-profits: Here are 7 ways to celebrate National Volunteer Week this year
They don’t walk around wearing capes or spandex costumes. They certainly can’t fly or exhibit superhuman strength. But volunteers are the closest we can get to the superheroes that we adore.
Just think about it. Volunteers make just about any good cause possible. Like Peter Parker who works as a freelance photographer and transforms into a superhero when the need arises, volunteers too, do regular jobs and rush to wherever they are needed, in their free time.
77.4 million Americans volunteered in 2018 – per research conducted by AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government.
The work done by volunteers is extensive. Be it mentoring disadvantaged youth or rushing to the spot of a natural disaster to help authorities mitigate its effects, volunteers are always at the forefront.
Volunteers hold a special significance to non-profits, who rely on their time and efforts to conduct impactful social programs that positively benefit society. In all honesty, without volunteers, a lot of our social impact programs will be non-existent.
While we are very thankful to them for everything they do, how often do we express our gratitude?
Volunteer appreciation needs to happen regularly. And if you do not get to do this often enough, there are a few special occasions when we specifically celebrate volunteers collectively across the globe – National Volunteer Week, is the best example.
What is National Volunteer Week?
This year, we celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 18 to April 24. Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution volunteers have made towards building resilient communities by fighting against society’s greatest challenges.
Last year was hard. And from the looks of it, COVID19 will continue to move us apart and confine ourselves within the safe walls of our homes. However, despite all of the lockdown restrictions, volunteers did not stop. They continued to give – were not possible physically, they gave through virtual volunteering.
And that is why we must celebrate volunteer week with great fervor this year. While we believe that volunteers should be celebrated every day, this is one week where you can put special focus into thanking and celebrating the people who make doing good possible.
Especially for non-profits – you must let your volunteers know that they are valued and that their efforts are indispensable. And National Volunteer Week is just the time to do it.
Most volunteers want to know the impact of their actions
Volunteers love being appreciated. But do you know what they love even more? Knowing exactly how their time and effort made a difference!
According to a Volunteer Recognition Study conducted by Volunteer Canada, Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the actual impact of their contributions.
The same survey shows that volunteers are less interested in forms of recognition such as banquets, public announcements, etc. Surprisingly, these are a few of the most commonly implemented volunteer recognition programs.
So how can you revamp your volunteer appreciation programs a little differently this year? Besides revamping your programs, you also have another challenge ahead of you – doing it virtually.
We’ve got you covered there.
7 exciting ways to celebrate National Volunteer Week this April
With a little help from our team, we have curated a list of the 7 most impactful ways you can celebrate national volunteer week virtually this year:
Host an online meetup
We mentioned earlier that most volunteers are not that excited about having a formal gathering to celebrate volunteerism. But with just a few tweaks to your program agenda, you can instead conduct an interactive online meet-up which is sure to leave your volunteers happy and pleasantly surprised.
Host an online meeting with all the significant stakeholders in your organization – your board members, your staff – basically anyone who the volunteers work with regularly. During the meet-up, ensure that you:
- Throw specific focus on volunteers who have done exceptional work through recognitions such as ‘the best volunteer of the month/year,’ etc.
- Highlight the biggest projects of the year and talk about their last-mile impact.
- Have beneficiaries in the meet-up. If that’s not possible, try to get videos/audios of them talking about how the volunteers have helped, to be played during the meeting.
- Bring a famous philanthropist closely associated with the cause your non-profit works towards, and let the volunteers have a Q&A session with him/her.
- Give volunteers visibility into the different roles that operate within your volunteering organization – this will serve as a great networking opportunity for them.
Let the world meet your volunteers
Want to throw the spotlight on a few of your exemplary volunteers for all the world to see? Look no further than social media. Use National Volunteer Week to share the stories and journeys of your most exceptional volunteers – maybe you can even feature a few volunteers every day.
How does this help? While many people volunteer, not a lot of them talk about it on public platforms. Many do not like tagging something they do out of altruistic intentions, to recognition – they find it boastful.
However, volunteering offers a great way to grow personally and professionally. When you give your volunteers a shout-out on your social media, you’re effectively helping them increase their reach. More people see their story and it serves as a great networking opportunity for these volunteers to interact with like-minded individuals. Or perhaps, even land a great job!
Personalization is key
There is something about handwritten letters that make them very heartwarming. This volunteer week, draft thoughtful, heartfelt letters thanking the volunteers for the effort they put into volunteering for your organization. This does not need to be a super long letter – but ensure that it is sincere. You can even get the beneficiary to share a few lines, about how the volunteer has helped improve his/her life.
If it is hard for you to arrange handwritten letters virtually, you can also consider using email. The intent is what matters. You can make the letter/email a little more interesting by also providing a digital gift card.
Talk about your impact
Your volunteers love to hear about the impact they’ve created, more than you think. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the number 1 motivating factor that makes them continue volunteering. This volunteer week, share some of the biggest volunteering success stories on your website and social media.
Share data, tell stories of your beneficiaries and volunteers, talk about your nonprofit’s story – in every way, ensure that you communicate the impact your volunteers have delivered, for all the world to see. Your volunteers will be overjoyed.
Wondering how you can measure this accurately? We can help you easily track and measure the impact of your virtual volunteering programs.
Usher in more volunteers
Besides celebrating your existing volunteers, use volunteer week to recruit more volunteers who believe in your mission. For instance, establish powerful relations with corporates that have a wealth of employee volunteers who would love to support your non-profit.
While reaching out, make sure that you have virtual volunteering opportunities which employees can partake in, from the comfort of their homes. Virtual volunteering is here to stay, and that’s what everyone’s eager to be a part of.
Besides the obvious merits of opening u access to corporate volunteers, introducing virtual volunteering opportunities also gives equal volunteering opportunities to disabled people, people from another geography, and those who are extremely busy. Interested in working with corporate volunteers who come with a wealth of experience and skills for free? Talk to us.
Involve the family
You would be surprised at how many volunteers love to participate in activities together with their families. Many employees have expressed interest in virtual volunteering activities that give their children a chance to be a part of a noble cause. So, how about we do that this volunteer week?
Celebrate your volunteers by curating interesting virtual volunteering opportunities that families can take part in. For instance, an activity that involves spreading awareness about wildlife – this will surely be something young parents and their family could learn something from.
While hosting these virtual volunteering activities, ensure that the sessions are fun and engaging. Share pictures and videos from the activity once the event is over, and encourage your volunteers and their families to share it as well.
Hear from your volunteers
How often do you give your volunteers a chance to raise concerns or give suggestions? There is no better way to show your volunteers that you care about them than to give them a forum to share constructive criticism. This volunteer week, open up a channel (A feedback form, a survey, an interactive Q&A) to help your volunteers express the following:
- What motivates them to volunteer?
- How can the virtual volunteering experience be made more interesting?
- What changes need to be made to the volunteering programs?
- What are the biggest challenges with virtual volunteering?
A survey that invites answers to these questions will help the volunteers feel heard and appreciated. But then again, you’ll need to make sure that you take these suggestions and bring forth meaningful changes to your processes if needed.
So there you have it – 7 easy ideas for you to celebrate National Volunteer Week this month. You could do a few of them or all of them (we recommend). But whatever you do, ensure that your volunteers feel seen and heard by your non-profit.
Before you leave, here are a few important points to keep in mind
We can’t wait for you to start implementing these ideas as a part of your volunteer recognition programs. But as you crystallize these ideas, do not forget to keep the following in mind:
- Do not limit volunteer recognition to National Volunteer Week. Find perennial ways to ensure that volunteers are appreciated, all year round – you do not always need to host events to do this.
- Put honest effort into understanding employee preferences and motivation. Through questionnaires and feedback forms, keep on top of what employees seek through volunteering.
- Engage in conversations with your volunteers regarding how volunteering has helped them develop their skills – look at hosting training sessions that will help them become better volunteers.
- Avoid going with a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to virtual volunteering. See how you can look at a few different ways of rewarding your volunteers as per their interests. This would also make the recognition look more sincere and personal.
- Try to hold workshops with well-known philanthropists or leaders who your volunteers look up to. This will motivate volunteers and open up a world of networking possibilities for them (which will be hard to come by, otherwise).
- Don’t shy away from consistently recognizing volunteers on your social handles or website. This will be a huge boon to the volunteer in terms of his/her personal and professional reputation.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Like we keep mentioning often, virtual volunteering is here to stay. That means a lot of focus is going to shift to corporate/online volunteers, and the time they spend amidst their busy schedules to contribute to causes they care about. It is critical to appreciate and recognize these volunteers for their hard work and commitment. Your support is just the ammunition they need to continue doing good.
If you want more volunteers to support your non-profit, talk to us. At Goodera, we work hard to connect corporate volunteers to a world of beneficiaries that need them. Our clients are looking out for more virtual volunteering opportunities like the ones here, and we’d be more than thrilled if you join us and open up more opportunities to do good virtually.
Have a fun-filled National Volunteer Week!