Have You Thanked a Volunteer This Week?

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April 22, 2013; AARP Blog

This week is “National Volunteer Week,” in its 39th year, strongly promoted by Points of Light and the HandsOn Network. Despite the “points of light” linkage that dates to the administration of President George H.W. Bush, National Volunteer Week was actually a creation of, or at least was designated by, President Richard M. Nixon. It is also celebrated in Canada. Earlier this week, the Governor General of Canada hosted a Google+ Hangout to discuss ways of fostering youth engagement. His partners in the Hangout included Ian Bird, the President and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, and Susan Vardon, director of National Initiatives at the United Way Toronto.

On the AARP Blog, there are tips for how to best recognize and honor volunteers for the work they do for nonprofits, including a dinner for volunteers, “swag, swag, and more swag,” placing stories about volunteers in the local press, giving volunteers “yummies” as a symbol of thanks, and “partner perks,” such as the practice of companies in Las Vegas that give away free vouchers for volunteers.

In Wisconsin, the American Red Cross is holding several blood donation drives in recognition of National Volunteer Week. This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is “celebrate service,” which fits the American Red Cross, where nine out of ten people are volunteers, quite well.

There are even categories of National Volunteer Week; apparently, it has also been acclaimed, for example, National Hospital Volunteer Week, though the limited image of “candy stripers” isn’t quite the norm of hospital volunteers any more, given the much more diverse kinds of challenges faced by hospitals nowadays.

We have two questions for our readers:  We know that many of the big organizations that use lots of nonprofits (for example, the Red Cross says it uses 500,000 volunteers) have plans for National Volunteer Week, but what about smaller, local nonprofits? What are you doing—if anything at all—for National Volunteer Week? And then there’s the question about utility. What do you think National Volunteer Week accomplishes for your organization, for volunteers, or for the nonprofit sector? Let us know.—Rick Cohen