How to celebrate Volunteers’ Week

26 May 2015

So next week is Volunteers’ Week, the annual celebration of volunteers who give their time to make a difference. But do you really know what difference they make?

Discussing Volunteers’ Week in the office I remembered a particularly interesting piece of research from Volunteer Canada - the Volunteer Recognition Study. Whilst there are obvious difficulties applying research from one country to the next (as my research colleagues keep telling me!) there are lessons to be learned.

The stand out finding for me is that most volunteers want to be thanked for their contribution by being told what difference they make. This is in contrast to acknowledgement provided through banquets, formal gatherings or coverage on radio, television or in a newspaper. The fact is 80% of volunteers want to know their impact (compared to the 50% that want some form of "public" recognition).

QuoteblogThis also ties in neatly with a recent article from the Guardian, 'Do charities need to prove the impact of every last pound?' where 85% of donors agreed that "it's vital that charities collect good evidence to show they make a difference".

When it comes to celebrating volunteers, measuring their impact within your organisation is an important step. Otherwise how can you truly recognise their contribution? 

But where to start? It's not a one size fits all, measuring impact can be light touch or more in-depth if the situation calls for it. We've produced a Good Practice Guide and a Training Course that will steer you in the right direction. You can also involve your volunteers in this process - what better way for them to understand the difference they're making?

As well as helping you to celebrate your volunteers and recognise their contribution, measuring their impact also helps attract new funding, publicise project successes and learn about what works and where to improve, amongst other benefits. 

Volunteering Week is first and foremost about saying thanks

Volunteers Week ImageWhether or not you measure the contribution of your volunteers, Volunteers' Week is still a good time to say thank you. And there are a number of ways you can do this. 

NCVO have produced a useful resource pack containing such things as template press releases and volunteer certificates. These forms of recognition are important and will be appreciated by your volunteers.

You can also say thanks through social media, sharing the #volunteersweek hashtag will spread your messages that bit wider. Why not let us know how you've been celebrating - we’ll be profiling as many of the activities taking place across Scotland as we can during the week and producing a 'round-up' blog afterwards.

And finally, to amend an old adage, please remember that volunteers  are not just for Volunteers’ Week they're for all year round!

When next week’s celebrations are over, start thinking about how you can measure the impact of your volunteers and let them know, not just that they're appreciated but the real difference that they make. Please don't wait until next June to do it.

As always your comments are very much appreciated.   

Iain

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