This year, National Volunteer Week is scheduled for April 21-27 — and according to the HandsOn Network, the week “is about inspiring, recognizing, and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.”
NVW often translates into neighborhood work projects, usually involving a combination of paint brushes, garbage bags and brightly colored themed T-shirts. It’s a great time to get things done that may have piled up over the winter — and when everyone gets together to help out, it energizes the organizations who put on the event.
All good things! (Maybe this week could be celebrated twice a year?)
Of course, this week is wonderful for another reason. It gives organizations and communities an opportunity to thank those who continually give of themselves throughout the year.
Here’s a handful of creative ways (big and small) to recognize the volunteers in your life:
Dinner and a show: A community garden group in the Philadelphia area have all the volunteers, workers and plot-holders gather together for a annual potluck to showcase their favorite recipes using the crops they grew. The dinner is followed by a short slideshow of the season, annual report and recognition of each volunteer.
Swag, swag, and more swag: T-shirts, hats, temporary tattoos, lip balm, stickers, etc. are often a tangible way to say thanks. Even though most organizations don’t necessarily want volunteers to volunteer for the swag, it’s still a good idea to occasionally give a small branded item out as way to say thanks and create a sense of belonging within the group.
Community news: Television, radio, newspapers and blogs are always looking for good news. Invite a reporter (or create your own story) to highlight the volunteers in your group and the impact they make in the world.
Essential lists: Send a postcard out that has a picture of the volunteer serving along with a short note on why they are essential to the organization/cause. Guaranteed to be put up on his/her refrigerator to remind them of why the help out.
Yummies: Cookies just might be the universal symbol for ‘thanks’ … kidding … but they are close. It’s amazing how much people associate food with feelings; so let your volunteers know how you feel about their service with one of your fellow helpers’ favorite treat.
Partner perks: Las Vegas might do this better than anywhere else in the country. As the self-proclaimed “Entertainment Capital of the World,” Vegas companies give away free vouchers for shows, events and food for people who partner with community organizations. Ask a local business to honor volunteers this week with a sweet deal.
Of course, don’t forget to add a heartfelt verbal ‘thank you’ to whatever you choose to do. Often, those two words are all that is needed to properly express appreciation for every hour of service and sacrifice given throughout the year.
How about you? What’s the best way you’ve ever been thanked for volunteering? (I’d love your comments.)
More info can be found about National Volunteer week here. Also, if you’re not already committed to doing a project this week, check out Create The Good’s newly redesigned (and super easy to use) website to find a volunteer project near you.
Photo by: nateOne, Flickr
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