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Celebrating the Value of Volunteering

It’s National Volunteer Week – a time for recognizing, thanking and celebrating volunteers.

As we noted in our post last week – Countdown to Volunteer Week  – in North America alone,  volunteers provided an estimated 10.2 billion hours of their time in 2011 (8.1 billion in  the U.S. and 2.1 billion in Canada).

The Value of Volunteering 

As Greg Baldwin (President of VolunteerMatch)  noted in the Huffington Post last week, there may be “honest reluctance and limitations to assigning a [financial] value to an act of generosity.”  But we’d probably all agree that non-profits, membership organizations and communities, certainly do rely on the good will of these legions of volunteers.  

In the article, Is Volunteering Worth It? The Economics of Generosity, Baldwin noted that the Independent Sector had published their statistics on the estimated dollar value of volunteer time which they suggest, "charitable organizations can use to quantify the enormous value volunteers provide." Baldwin admits that “volunteering has our affection; it doesn't always have our respect.”  He suggests that quantifying the value of volunteering is “about visibility. It is about bringing into focus a thousand acts of kindness to recalibrate our understanding of our economy and ourselves.” 

How will you demonstrate  your appreciation for the value your volunteers bring?

National Volunteer Week provides a great opportunity to formally and visibly recognize volunteers. Of course, as we noted in a previous post – A Thank-you Can be Powerful – volunteer recognition shouldn’t  be relegated to this one week, it should be an on-going  process. But many groups create special events to publicly gather and acknowledge volunteers once a year.

Unique ways to celebrate your volunteers

We did a little online research to find some fun and unique ways to recognize and celebrate volunteer efforts for National Volunteer Week.  Here are some of the ideas we found:

  • “Freeze Mob?”  - To “kick off”  National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Ottawa staged a "freeze mob". This entailed having  “volunteer freezers" stand still and hold signs explaining their reasons for volunteering at a local shopping center.  
  • Volunteer Walk of Fame - Volunteer Maryland offers a step-by-step “how to” post about creating a red carpet with “Hall of Famers” names on cardboard stars (which they can take home for a keepsake.
  • Breakfast Event- One Red Cross chapter in the U.S., held their Volunteer Appreciation Event at a local casino which offered a “reunion-like atmosphere.” The event included presenting pins to commemorate years of service to both humans and canine volunteers.

Some of the other ideas we found included:

  • Holding an open house
  • Volunteer banquets
  • Volunteer  appreciation awards
  • Sending volunteer appreciation cards

Of course the type of celebration and/or reward will depend on your  understanding of and relationship with your volunteers.

Do you have any unique ideas for volunteer recognition?  Share them with us in the comments below.

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