Volunteer Scotland logo

3rd June 2024

Volunteers’ Week through the years

This year, we’re celebrating 40 years of Volunteers’ Week and want to kick off the week with a look back at the campaign through the years at Volunteer Scotland.

The UK government established Volunteers’ Week in 1984, with Volunteering England leading the initiative to honour the millions of volunteers who contribute to causes across the country. The week-long celebration was created with the aim to recognise volunteers’ efforts, inspire future volunteers, and showcase the positive impact they have on communities. We’re proud that the aim remains the same 40 years later.

From our research we believe that Volunteer Scotland joined in on the campaign as participants and partners around 1986. From then, Volunteer Scotland have promoted and participated in Volunteers’ Week in a vast range of ways. Check out just some our activities from over the years:


We published an article in our ‘Keeping You Posted’ printed newsletter about Volunteers’ Week. It included information on events happening in different local authority areas for Volunteers’ Week including an Open day in Galashiels, a recruitment and publicity drive in Alloa, an Exhibition & Volunteers Market in Shetland, plus much more.


The theme of Volunteers’ Week this year was ‘Fresh Horizons’ and Scottish Television (now STV) devoted its full Box 2000 for the week beginning the 3rd of June to a general promotion of volunteering. Box 2000 was a regular community broadcasting slot provided by Scottish Television (STV) from the late 1980s until the millennium. The Box 2000 slots would advertise local community groups and charities within the STV broadcasting area.


A call out from BBC TV & Radio 1 was featured in our printed newsletter. They were looking for volunteer voices to attract attention to volunteering with younger audiences. Radio 5 also interviewed Government Ministers to address political issues around volunteering.


Volunteer Development Scotland held a reception for volunteers hosted by our own Volunteers Dr Fred Edwards LVO (honorary President) and Lady Mellon (Chair). Standard Life generously provided hospitality including two giant birthday cakes to help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary. Special guest, folk singer Jimmie Macgregor, helped give the event a festive feel.


Secretary of State Michael Forsyth held a reception for 150 volunteers at Stirling castle for Volunteers’ Week and 12 local authorities across Scotland held awards ceremonies for volunteers with more than 7500 certificates handed out. Celebrity meals on wheels deliveries were made throughout the week and MPs got involved with events in their local authorities. 


We shared our ‘Top Ten Tips for (getting through) Volunteers’ Week’ prior to the campaign week. During the campaign week Sam Galbraith, Minister of State for Health & Social Work paid tribute to “the multitude of volunteers who seek little recognition for the good that they do beyond the satisfaction of a job well done.” And confirmed that nearly £1million will go towards funding major volunteering projects in the following year.


This year the UK theme was ‘Recognise, Reward and Recruit’. TV Celebrity Sarah Greene helped us to get in the mood for Volunteers’ Week UK wide and we shared 10 easy ways to join in.

Sponsorship was secured from Standard Life, the Leith Agency, Tunnocks and Punjana Tea.

Kaye Adams presented a Volunteers’ Week Action 2000 broadcast, over 200 local events were held and more than 8000 certificates were awarded to volunteers. 


It was PARTY TIME. There were hundreds of events and parties planned across the country to celebrate and recognise volunteers this year. One quote said “We hokey-cokied, knees-up-mother-browned, birdie singed, sloshes and military two stepped. One more chorus of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and we were going off sick with repetitive strain injury! Great Fun!”

The Major sponsor of Volunteers’ Week this year was United Biscuits and Ford sponsored the certificates and production of a recruitment guide.


In February 2000, the UK National Lottery Charities Board awarded over £500,000 to develop Volunteers' Week across the UK. 75 MSPs and MEPs supported volunteers through various activities. In Scotland, over 3990 organizations participated, and more than 23K certificates were awarded at numerous ceremonies. Volunteer Scotland staff celebrated with a boat trip along the Union Canal and a presentation by former CEO Liz Burns to 150 volunteers and staff. Major sponsors included United Biscuits and Ford, who sponsored the certificates and a recruitment guide. This year also marked the introduction of the star around the Volunteers' Week logo.


In 2002, the First Minister, Jack McConnell, kicked off Volunteers’ Week celebrations in Scotland in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall with a parade of 300 volunteers from George Square to the Concert Hall.

Inside the event there was a Volunteering Market Place with 40 volunteering involving organisations promoting their services and volunteering opportunities.

Overall throughout the campaign week we saw over 4500 organisations participate, £250,000 of media coverage was achieved, including a record 90 minutes of coverage across BBC Radio Scotland.  


Hundreds of Volunteers Week events took place across the country celebrating thousands of volunteers. 

More than 90 volunteers attended a recognition lunch, hosted by Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust Achieving Better Services Group:

“Guests were treated to a delicious four course lunch accompanied by music. There were presentations by volunteers about projects they are involved in. Certificates were presented by the Chairman to all volunteers.”


In 2004, there was a focus on volunteering in health. The Daily Record showed support for the campaign by including a special insert on ‘Volunteering in Health’ in their weekend edition.

The insert included articles on the benefits of volunteering, three case studies from volunteers and a message from Malcolm Chisholm, the Minister for Health and Community Care. Praising the work of volunteers throughout Scotland he said: “Volunteers provide social support, give their time where it will be appreciated and can offer an extra ‘human touch’ when it is most needed. For many people, volunteering is a chance to give something back and to show that they care.”


This year we highlighted the events of Volunteer Centres across Scotland. Including: 

  • VC Stirling: They celebrated the efforts of local volunteers with a reception and award ceremony hosted by the Provost. 
  • VC Highland (Caithness): Hosted an award ceremony with representatives from the voluntary sector. 
  • VC Highland (Lochaber): Had its 3rd Civic Reception to celebrate volunteering in the area. A special prize went to a 14 year old who volunteered at the PDSA Charity Shop.
  • VC Midlothian: Organised a Volunteer Certificate Ceremony with 120 people in attendance. The Provost presented certificates to 60 volunteers and announced Volunteer Team of the Year.
  • VC Moray: Hundreds of people attended a Volunteer Fair in Elgin. The event resulted in a boost in interest in volunteering with more people becoming aware of volunteering and how they can get involved.


Over these few years, Volunteer Scotland underwent many transformations. We transitioned from ‘Volunteer Development Scotland‘ to simply ‘Volunteer Scotland,’ and we also experienced office relocations, staff changes, and shifts in funding. As a result, the Volunteers’ Week campaign, while remaining a major focus and highlight of our year, received slightly less coverage in our annual reports and publications for a period. However, the campaign made a triumphant return in 2017, coming back with a BANG!


To recharge the campaign in Scotland we partnered with the Scottish Volunteering Forum, where we introduced a theme for the first time this year: “Volunteers are the Golden Thread.” This initiative was highly successful and received enthusiastically by VIOs and other stakeholders. The “golden” aspect of the theme facilitated extensive engagement, with many organisations incorporating gold decorations. A volunteer from Dyslexia Scotland even made a golden thread tapestry.

Our social media presence this year was outstanding, with over 3,000 tweets using the new hashtag for Scotland #volunteersweekscot, reaching an estimated audience of nearly 4 million people. (For context, Scotland’s population is about 5.4 million).

We also launched a Thunderclap to kick off the week with a target of 250 supporters. Instead, it attracted 356 participants and reached an audience of 569,051.


After the successful relaunch with the Scottish Volunteering Forum in 2017, we continued our collaborative efforts to further establish the Volunteers’ Week campaign in Scotland.

We kicked off the week once again with the Thunderclap, setting a target of 500 supporters. We surpassed this goal, garnering 556 supporters and creating a social reach of over 960,000—an incredible start to the week!

This year, we introduced new resources and key ways to get involved, including ‘Partners’ who were featured on the Volunteer Scotland website as key contributors and supporters of the campaign. There were over 215 sign-ups.

We concluded the week with a Cross Party event at the Scottish Parliament, attended by VIOs, MSPs, and volunteers who kindly shared their volunteer stories with us.


In 2019, it was “Time to Celebrate!” So, we introduced the volunteersweek.scot website to further highlight and promote activities for the campaign in Scotland. The site attracted more than 13,000 users in the run-up to and during the campaign. We also created a new resource pack filled with fun and exciting graphics that organizations and groups could use to get involved in the campaign.

More than 50 volunteer stories were shared and over 8,842 volunteer subscribers were formally thanked.

We hosted another successful Cross Party Group event at the Scottish Parliament, with volunteers from across the country in attendance to share their incredibly inspiring stories with us. We were also pleased to have Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities & Local Government, there to meet the volunteers.


Plans for Volunteers’ Week 2020 were well underway in January and February, with new resources, ideas for getting involved, and more ready to be shared on the website for a mid-March launch. Then the pandemic hit, and the world shut down, leaving us uncertain about the future. However, people across the country stepped up and volunteered wherever possible, making Volunteers’ Week 2020 more needed than ever!

We quickly adapted and updated our resources to be entirely online-focused. We encouraged online thank-you events and messages, resulting in our highest online engagement to date. The #VolunteersWeekScot hashtag achieved an overall social reach of 6.9 million, with people getting creative in their thank-you messages. Throughout the week, we shared over 250 thank-you posts on our website, including 59 videos, 15 songs, 37 letters, 10 paintings, and much more. We even launched a podcast called Radio V, featuring 25 volunteer stories across the series. Volunteer Scotland staff also got creative, sharing our Thank You video message across our channels.


During this continued limbo of lockdowns, we celebrated Volunteers’ Week by offering both in-person and online avenues for participation. We provided guidance on hosting virtual events and encouraged individuals to engage in whichever manner suited them best.

Additionally, we were pleased to collaborate with the Big Lunch and the Month of Communities this year. People nationwide hosted Big Lunch events—both in person and virtually—to express gratitude to the volunteers who have supported them, particularly throughout the challenges of the past year.

Remaining focused on virtual engagement, we once again sent a heartfelt thank you message to our 11.2k volunteer subscribers. Additionally, members of the Scotland Sub-Group shared personal messages of gratitude through a group video.


Volunteers’ Week 2022 was about saying THANK YOU to volunteers for all they contribute every year. We were overwhelmed by the amount of thank you messages shared online throughout the week once again.

Across the 7 days, the #VolunteersWeekScot hashtag was mentioned across all social media channels more than 35K times, liked more than 160K times, reaching millions of people worldwide! More than 14 thousand volunteer subscribers were thanked with a digital Thank You card and 1250 Campaign Pin Badges were purchased and shared with volunteers.


Volunteers’ Week 2023 was a time to “Celebrate and Inspire,” and it truly lived up to its theme. The flood of thank you messages, recognition celebrations, inspiring stories, and recruitment events shared on social media was overwhelming. Over the seven days, the #VolunteersWeekScot hashtag was mentioned more than 10,000 times across social media and the web, reaching over 76 million people worldwide and generating over 54,000 interactions (likes, posts, shares).

More than 15,000 volunteer subscribers received a digital Thank You card, and 500 Campaign Pin Badges were purchased and distributed to volunteers this year!


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, the National Partners—Volunteer Scotland, WCVA, Volunteer Now, and NCVO—collectively decided to rebrand the campaign. Over the past four decades, the campaign’s logo and overall brand have undergone various updates. This year, to mark the 40th anniversary, we were excited to refresh it once again, creating a new and inspiring identity designed to stand the test of time.

By updating the existing logo while retaining the star element introduced over 20 years ago, we maintain a sense of continuity that ensures individuals feel appreciated, recognised, and proud to be part of Volunteers’ Week.

Although we made some changes for the 40th anniversary, we remained committed to the overall mission of the week: to highlight the diverse volunteer community, showcase volunteering opportunities, inspire positive change, and celebrate and thank all volunteers. Throughout the week, we anticipate a wide range of events, from awards ceremonies and coffee mornings to casual gatherings. The week will conclude with ‘The Big Help Out,’ encouraging more people to join the volunteering community.

With that, we want to take a moment to celebrate and thank each of you for being unwavering sources of support for Scotland’s volunteers and for us, year after year. We truly couldn’t have accomplished what we have over the last 40 years without your ongoing dedication to volunteering.

So, THANK YOU to all of Scotland’s inspirational volunteers and dedicated volunteering community. We hope you have a great Volunteers’ Week!