National Volunteer Week: An Invitation to say more than “thanks”

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13 Days before the official #NVW18 begins. I know you probably thank your association volunteers all year long, right? I serve on a volunteer council for NIGP and this very topic was a key part of our conversation. We asked are those one-up thank you’s, while meaningful, giving us the biggest impact to stir volunteering. Could we do something that put a giant spotlight on our volunteering activity and the impact it has?

Our volunteers are a significant resource to move our mission and meet our members’ needs. ASAE Foundation study on Mutually Beneficial Volunteer System found that 25-30% of the labor hours in associations come from our volunteer workforce! And we don’t give them paid leave, bonuses, holidays offs, or birthday cakes.

Points of Light began National Volunteer Week in 1974 with that thought in mind. In that conversation in our NIGP group we had last week, we talked national volunteering week occurring in April. What if we set aside our own week – or month – to spotlight our volunteers? We proposed that for our association June might be better as it marks the end of our association program year, and hence the terms for the traditional roles, and the beginning of a new year. We could do a strong, impactful thanks and a let’s kick off a new year.

Whether you choose to mark National Volunteer Week or designate a week or month of your own isn’t important. Finding the time to commit to recognizing member contribution is. What #NVW18 provides us in associations is a reminder to take this time.

In case #NVW18 will be your week, here a few “last-minute” ideas. Use the Points of Light info and downloadable logos or their #ivolunteer signboard for social media. Consider these last-minute ideas:

  • Personal email thanks from staff to individual volunteers they work with
  • Post pictures of volunteers in action from the past year on your social media channels with #NVW18
  • Invite your chapters to post pictures of volunteers in action with #ivolunteer – then after the week feature in a photo gallery
  • Blog post highlighting the results of the work of volunteers the past year
  • Blog series – like the Daily Point Light, post a story each day of the month or week
  • Make a statement – AIHA created an infographic to highlight the impact of their volunteers and RAPS incorporated their visual in a thank you gift.
  • During National Volunteer Week, Points of Light encourages its community of changemakers to download and customize the #ivolunteer signboard, and share their volunteer stories on Twitter and Instagram using #ivolunteer and #NVW

And one final thought: showing #VolunteerLove is more that appreciation. We too often think of recognition as appreciation. The sincerest recognition is putting our members’ ideas and work into action, letting their work generate outcomes. Recognition comes when volunteers see their efforts made a difference for the association. Are you creating volunteer opportunities that have results? Are you crediting the results to the efforts of member volunteers?

Volunteers are the air that we breathe. Tell them!

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Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.