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National Volunteer Week: Be the Hero Your Community Needs (Without the Cape!) Every year, National Volunteer Week takes place during the third week of April. The purpose is to recognize the incredible people who improve our communities. Although thanking volunteers is an...

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Calendar

Every year, National Volunteer Week takes place during the third week of April. The purpose is to recognize the incredible people who improve our communities. Although thanking volunteers is an integral part of Volunteer Week, it’s not the only thing to celebrate. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to inspire others to join the movement and see how profound their impact can be.

In light of that, the purpose of this blog post is to assist you in getting ready for National Volunteer Week. We’ll discuss the history of this celebration and the importance of volunteering. Also, we will give you tips on how to get involved.

A Legacy of Service: The History of National Volunteer Week

There is no doubt that volunteers make a real difference in our lives and the world around us. National Volunteer Week emphasizes this impact and encourages more people to get involved. From its military roots in the late 16th century, the word “volunteer” has evolved to refer to selfless service in general.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week in the United States. In this week-long celebration, volunteers across the country showcase their diverse volunteer projects and events. Two key players organize the week:

  • Points of Light. Inspires volunteers to become “a thousand points of light” in the wake of President George H.W. Bush’s call to action in 1989.
  • Volunteer Canada. Founded in 1977, this organization honors wartime contributions made by women on the Home Front. Across Canada, they aim to increase volunteer participation, quality, and diversity.

The roles of both Points of Light and Volunteering Canada are crucial to promoting volunteerism and ensuring positive volunteer experiences.

Why Does National Volunteer Week Matter?

There are several critical purposes served by National Volunteer Week:

  • Increasing awareness. Volunteerism is brought into the spotlight, inspiring others to get involved and reminding communities of volunteers’ contributions.
  • Recognition and appreciation. During this week, volunteers are celebrated and appreciated for their tireless efforts. It’s an opportunity to thank those who make a difference.
  • Recruiting and mobilization. By showcasing volunteer opportunities, NVW helps organizations attract new volunteers.

Ultimately, National Volunteer Week strengthens communities, fosters connections, and makes society more vibrant and positive by highlighting the power of volunteerism.

The Ripple Effect: Benefits of Volunteering

The purpose of volunteering isn’t just to help others; it’s a two-way street. As well as benefiting their communities, volunteers also benefit themselves:

  • Personal growth. Individuals gain new skills, knowledge, and experiences through volunteering. In addition to boosting self-confidence, it can help develop leadership skills.
  • Career development. It can enhance resumes and build valuable skills relevant to future careers if you have volunteer experience.
  • A sense of belonging. Loneliness is combated by working together towards a shared goal, and a sense of belonging is fostered. Two benefits of volunteering are connecting with like-minded individuals and forming strong support networks.
  • Increased happiness. Research shows that helping others triggers the release of endorphins, resulting in feelings of joy and well-being. In addition to empowering individuals, volunteering fosters a sense of purpose.
  • Reduces stress, anger, and anxiety. You can experience profound psychological well-being from the social contact aspect of helping and working with others. There is nothing better than a meaningful relationship to relieve stress. As well as improving mood, working with pets, for example, can reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Relieves depression. By volunteering, you stay in touch with others and develop a solid support system, which prevents depression.
  • Maintains your physical health. There is a lower mortality rate among volunteers than among non-volunteers. Older volunteers tend to walk more, cope with everyday tasks better, and have lower blood pressure than younger volunteers. Additionally, volunteering can reduce the risk of heart disease and chronic pain symptoms.

Finding Your Perfect Fit: Opportunities for Everyone

The best part of volunteering? It is diverse. Whatever your age, skillset, or time commitment, you have a role. To get you started on your volunteering journey, here are some ideas:

  • Social services. To aid those in need, donate your time to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or food banks.
  • Animal welfare. Volunteer at animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, or rescue organizations that help animals.
  • Education. Participate in literacy programs, tutor students, or mentor youth.
  • Environmental advocacy. Get involved in tree planting, beach cleanups, or conservation projects.
  • Senior care. Offer companionship to seniors, assist with errands, or visit nursing homes.
  • Arts and culture. Become a volunteer at a museum, library, or local arts organization.
  • Health services. Raise awareness about health issues or support hospitals and clinics.
  • International aid. Participate in humanitarian and global development projects as a volunteer.

In addition to these examples, there are countless other opportunities available. Even if you have limited time, many organizations offer flexible volunteering schedules.

Embracing the Journey: Tips for Successful Volunteering

If you are considering volunteering, here are some tips to ensure a fulfilling and impactful experience:

  • Discover your passion. Are there any issues that are close to your heart? When you identify a cause you are truly passionate about, staying committed and satisfied for a long time is much easier.
  • Align your skills. Take into account your strengths and interests. Many organizations need volunteers with specific skills, such as marketing, communication, or web design.
  • Set realistic goals. Honesty is the best policy regarding how much time you can realistically devote.
  • Do your research. Find out the organization’s mission and values. Then, you will understand how your contribution will make a difference.
  • Embrace new challenges. Getting involved in volunteer work can expose you to new experiences and knowledge. As such, you should always be open to learning and expanding your horizons.
  • Communicate effectively. You should maintain clear communication with your colleagues and the organization.
  • Celebrate successes. Don’t forget to acknowledge your achievements and the impact of your volunteer work.

Beyond National Volunteer Week: Making Volunteering a Way of Life

National Volunteer Week is a great opportunity to celebrate service, but volunteering shouldn’t be limited to one week. The possibilities for incorporating volunteerism into your day-to-day life are endless:

  • Skilled-based volunteering. Become a pro bono volunteer for an organization that needs your skills.
  • Micro-volunteering. People can serve their communities through micro-volunteering conveniently and efficiently. Whether you have a minute or an hour, you can make a meaningful difference by supporting nonprofit activities. One example is Be My Eyes, a mobile app that assists blind and low-vision users worldwide.
  • Blood donation. Become a regular blood donor and give the gift of life. Using the Blood Donor app, you can find blood drives near you and schedule appointments.
  • Random acts of kindness. Throughout your day, spread positivity by helping a neighbor with groceries, buying coffee for the person behind you in line, or complimenting a colleague.

How Employers Can Create a Culture of Volunteerism

There are several ways employers can encourage their employees to volunteer, making it a rewarding and accessible experience. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Paid time off (PTO) for volunteering. For many employees who can’t afford to volunteer on their own time, this removes a major barrier.
  • Offer and facilitate opportunities. Instead of telling employees to volunteer, help them find causes they are passionate about. Partnering with local nonprofits can also make company-wide volunteer days possible.
  • Skills-based volunteering. Employer skillsets can be matched with volunteer needs. As a result, employees feel a sense of accomplishment and may learn new skills relevant to their profession.
  • Recognition and rewards. Offer small rewards like extra PTO or gift cards to employees who volunteer.
  • Make it social and fun. Volunteering can be used to build a team. It is possible, for instance, to organize group volunteer outings or interdepartmental competitions.
  • Highlight the impact. Demonstrate how employee volunteering is making a difference. For example, share volunteer event stories and photos on your social channels.

Employers can create a workplace that encourages employees to give back to the community and develop professionally if these strategies are implemented.

But that’s not all. It is also possible to benefit your bottom line by volunteering.

According to American Charities research, 88% of employers believe engaging employees helps them retain and attract talent. In addition, 71% of employees say a culture that encourages giving and volunteering is imperative or very important.

Engaged employees tend to stay with their employers, cutting down on costs. Moreover, the support of community involvement would encourage them to become members of the organization.

Let’s Make a Difference Together

During National Volunteer Week, we are reminded that even small acts of service have a ripple effect. Throughout this week and beyond, consider what you can do to make your community stronger, and more vibrant.

FAQs

What is National Volunteer Week?

During National Volunteer Week, volunteers are recognized for their incredible impact on their communities. We thank those who donate their skills and time throughout the week.

When is National Volunteer Week?

National Volunteer Week is held during the third week of April each year. In 2024, it will be from April 21st to April 27th.

What is the purpose of National Volunteer Week?

There are several key purposes for National Volunteer Week:

  • Recognition. This is a time to recognize and celebrate the amazing work volunteers do.
  • Inspiration. This week highlights the stories of volunteers to inspire others to serve their communities.
  • Encouragement. As a result, organizations will find new ways to appreciate their volunteers and support volunteerism.

Is there anything else I can do besides volunteering during National Volunteer Week?

Absolutely!

Here are some ways you can still participate if you are unable to volunteer:

  • Donate to a cause you believe in.
  • Spread the word! Promote National Volunteer Week on social media and encourage others to participate.
  • Thank a volunteer in your life. Don’t forget to express your appreciation for their contributions.

Is National Volunteer Week the same as International Volunteer Day?

This is a U.S.-only celebration. On December 5th of every year, the world celebrates International Volunteer Day.

How do I find a volunteer opportunity?

You can find volunteer opportunities in many ways. A few examples are as follows:

  • Using a website like VolunteerMatch, you can find volunteer opportunities that match your interests and availability.
  • Find out what nonprofits are in your neighborhood. Their websites will usually list volunteer opportunities.
  • Get in touch with government agencies that focus on areas that matter to you, such as education and environmental protection.
  • Find out if your friends, family, or colleagues know of any volunteer opportunities.

You can also usually find volunteer opportunities by cause on volunteer matching websites, such as education, animal welfare, and environmental protection. There are also often local chapters of national organizations that focus on specific causes.

Image Credit: Anna Shvets; Pexels

The post National Volunteer Week: Be the Hero Your Community Needs (Without the Cape!) appeared first on Calendar.

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