Recognizing a Nation of Volunteers – National Volunteer Week April 17-April 23

Recognizing a Nation of Volunteers

National Volunteer Week April 17-April 23

Sign with raised hands to volunteer

In 1974 a Presidential Proclamation established National Volunteer Week in the United States as an opportunity to recognize Americans that dedicate their time and energy to causes and organizations they care about deeply. Although officially recognized for nearly 50 years, this country’s history of volunteerism goes back to its very beginning. The first large-scale volunteer effort was the new country’s recruitment of soldiers for the Revolutionary War. As the country grew, so did volunteering and creating organizations devoted to more philanthropic causes. Nonprofit groups such as the United Way and American Red Cross were founded in the 1800s and still are helping people today. With the arrival of Springtime, we celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 17 – April 23. Please take a moment to think about those around you who give up their free time to help others and consider opportunities where you can assist in the future.

The Emergence of Virtual Volunteering

Helping families with cancer, rescuing lost animals, delivering food to those less fortunate are just some of the volunteer activities everyday Americans were helping with when the entire world went into lockdown two years ago. All of those activities did not stop when COVID-19 spread across the globe. Many nonprofit organizations reconfigured their volunteer programs for virtual support or limited the number of volunteers, or temporarily suspended volunteer operations due to safety concerns. The events of 2020 did force organizations to rethink and find new ways to continue their missions to help others. Here to Serve, the nonprofit that helps families on their cancer journey, reenvisioned their delivery model of volunteer services with more safeguards put in place to avoid contact while still supporting cancer families.

The concept of “virtual volunteering” is not new; the term was first used in the mid-1990s by Steve Glikbarg, the co-founder of the organization Impact Online. With Smartphones, laptops, and internet access available to almost everybody, virtual volunteering is easy. Websites such as VolunteerMatch,  Taproot, and  JustServe, aid in providing a list of volunteer opportunities in your area, helping to eliminate long hours of research. Virtual volunteering offers remote options for providing nonprofit organizations support in accomplishing their missions. Partaking in activities such as fundraising, phone calls, social media, office admin, or copywriting are tasks that a volunteer can perform from the comfort of their home. Virtual volunteering might also mean assembling activity kits for kids in need through such organizations as Project Helping, which will send a Kynd Kit directly to your home. Many of these opportunities also offer flexibility so that you can volunteer around your schedule. 21st technology has helped to reshape volunteering for the better.

Volunteering Helps EverybodyMan volunteering to direct traffic

Why do people volunteer? The reasons are numerous. Some people have a personal connection to a cause, and they want to give back. It might also be a great way to make new friends, share or improve your skills, or be helpful with your spare time. Whether the reasons are altruistic or self-serving, volunteering does help all parties involved. Individuals volunteering can receive several positive benefits from giving their time and energy to a cause. Benefits can include positive effects on mental and physical health. A task that helps others offers a sense of purpose, increasing self-esteem and lowering the risk of depression and anxiety. Performing outdoor activities like cleaning up a beach on a warm summer day can provide low or no-cost physical exercise. A 2013 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that “people over the age of 50, who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.”

The positive advantages of volunteering are not just for individuals looking for a way to help; nonprofit organizations benefit tremendously from having volunteer staff to assist their causes, especially skilled professionals who are retired. Many nonprofits work on shoestring budgets, so having non-paid volunteers helps these organizations survive and thrive if those volunteers are professionals in their fields. During the National volunteer week, we celebrate the spirit of volunteering. The federal agency Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) found in 2018 that over 77 million adults volunteered through various organizations. This work equates to nearly 6.9 billion volunteer hours. The Independent Sector, an organization that brings together nonprofits and other foundations, releases an annual calculation of the value of a volunteer’s time based on an hourly rate. In 2021, the rate was over $28 per hour. That equals over $193 billion that nonprofits benefit from by having volunteer support. These staggering figures and statistics show the value and importance of volunteers.

Volunteering at Here To Serve this National Volunteer week

Here To Serve is a nonprofit organization founded by Katie and Silvio Quintas in 2011. They offer practical support through their cancer-journey program. Here to Serve’s mission is to lift the burdens of families with children impacted by cancer. Volunteers are critical to their success and help assist families through complex cancer journeys. If you are visiting our website and would like to help families in need, please take a moment to view our current volunteer opportunities. Any practical help and professional experience you can offer will help cancer-impacted families so that parents can devote their attention to their children.

By Chris Smith

About the Author

Chris Smith is a Here to Serve volunteer from the San Francisco Bay area who himself is a cancer survivor. He uses his professional experience as a technical writer to give back and provide clear and meaningful information for families with a child battling cancer.

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.