It's National Volunteer Week! Non-profits and volunteers alike are sharing in an annual celebration of volunteerism and civic engagement that began more than two decades ago! It's a time to not only recognize the tireless efforts of individuals who give of themselves to help others, but it's also a time to reflect on the impact of service in our communities and discover new ways to do good.
Non-profits, this is your time to recognize your outstanding volunteers. Volunteers (or potential volunteers), this is your time to "kick it up a notch" and really deliver some powerful service in your community! If you're like most people, your refrain might be, "But, Stephen... I just don't have the time for service..." And to you I'd say, "Oh yes you do!" If you're a non-profit, you might say, "But Stephen... we just don't have the funds to show appreciation for our volunteers..." And to you I'd say, "That's a bunch of hullabaloo!" National Volunteer is one big party, and everyone is invited! Here are some ways that you can take part in the celebration.
Recognition is imperative when creating an effective volunteer program. All non-profits would love to have a core group of individuals that they could always count on, but the reality is sometimes it just doesn't happen. In my experience, I feel that providing a value to volunteers should be top priority. If volunteers don't feel needed or wanted, then they'll jump ship. Use this time to think of strategies that will help you retain and recognize your volunteers. Here are a few tips:
- Nominate your volunteers for awards: Do you have a stellar volunteer who always does great work? Submit a nomination to an award program on their behalf! Even if they don't receive the award, it'll speak volumes that you appreciate them enough to take the time to nominate them for an award.
- Superlatives: Can't find an award suitable for your volunteers? Who says you can't make 'em up? Everyone loves a good superlative, and you can tailor them to fit what you know about them. For example, "Most Likely to Paint a Mural In Less Than 5 Minutes" Get creative with it. Make a cool certificate, decorate it, bedazzle it... make it fun!
- Goodie Bags: I love giving out goodie bags with candy and other fun items. Make it extra special by adding a personal, handwritten note, and your non-profit will be the talk of the town!
Believe it or not, you're heroes in the non-profit world! If you volunteer on a regular basis, then keep it up. If you truly don't have the time to physically go to a non-profit to volunteer, that's okay. Your expertise can still be used if you've got an internet connection, computer, or mobile phone. Want to help others? There's an app for that!
- myImpact.org: myImpact.org is an online platform for volunteers in national and community service programs. Their Twitter-based tool allows volunteers to record, share, and track their impact. Like stats and numbers, this is the platform for you!
- sparked.com: Let's be honest... when you're bored at work, you probably log into Facebook. Instead of "liking," your favorite celebrity, you should log into sparked.com instead! Non-profits will post what they need (e.g. a tagline for their organization, a logo for an event, etc.), and all you have to do is use your expertise to complete the task. There are a variety of interest areas, so you can tailor your search to your expertise! Next time you want to update your status, do some good by logging into sparked.com instead.
- createthegood.org: Create The Good covers all your volunteer needs, wether you're looking for volunteers to help you or if you're in search of something good to do in your community. They also have a ton of five minute opportunities from sending letters to your local fire and police departments to downloading an Energy Saving Toolkit and sharing it with friends.
National Volunteer Week ends on April 16 th, so you've still got some time to celebrate! And here's a challenge to non-profit organizations... don't let one week set the tone for recognizing your volunteers. Try making it a consistent practice, and I guarantee you'll be pleased with the results.
What are some other ways that you can celebrate National Volunteer Week?
This is a guest post by Stephen Anfield. Stephen is currently working as the Benefits Outreach Project Coordinator at the AARP Foundation. He organizes the Benefits Access QuickLink volunteers and National Call Center.