Champion Volunteerism During Global Volunteer Month

Mar 18, 2024

We all want our volunteers to feel fulfilled and engaged, ensuring they keep returning for more opportunities. Three important ways to accomplish this goal are by establishing an inclusive environment, investing in and supporting their development, and ensuring they know they are making a difference. This idea pertains to all people in the orbit of your organization—employees, volunteers, donors and your community.

With Global Volunteer Month on the horizon, instead of just throwing a party and printing certificates or hosting a one-time volunteer opportunity, it’s a great time to reflect on how you can improve the volunteer experience for your volunteers. This monthlong celebration of volunteerism throughout April offers the perfect opportunity to create touchpoints with your organization for a first-time volunteer, a long-timer, and one that you have yet to meet. Plus, you can use this opportunity to plan for a year-round, comprehensive approach. Here are three things to consider in your planning.

Establish an Inclusive Environment

How inclusive are you? Is your organization engaging those with diverse lived experiences, ages, races, socioeconomic status and more? It’s imperative to continue to evolve your organization’s culture of volunteerism to be inclusive of future volunteers and create space for all community members to volunteer. Choose to be intentional with community engagement and recruiting efforts; authentically show up in communities that you hope to engage and ask them to help you design meaningful and impactful volunteer opportunities that deliver on your mission. If you already have an inclusive environment with meaningful ways for people to connect with your organization and help improve their community, then focus on maintaining that approach and digging even deeper. A great way to help hold your organization and yourself accountable is engaging volunteers in developing volunteer opportunities and creating strong relationships with individuals that will help call you in before there is an issue.

Ensure They Know They are Making a Difference

Everyone has their own motivation when they start to volunteer. You will build deeper engagement if they see how their effort is helping the organization. They will feel appreciated if they know that their efforts make a difference for the community you support.

  • Appreciate your volunteers in ways that help them see the difference they are making, like using the Global Volunteer Month social media toolkit—a click of your mouse makes it easy to share globally.
  • Recognize an outstanding volunteer by nominating them for a Daily Point of Light Award.
  • Add a Mission Impact section to every position description.
  • Go beyond token appreciation of just saying thank you. Instead of saying, “Thank you for filing those papers,” be specific. Say, “Thank you for filing those client forms. You are helping other team members do what they are uniquely qualified to do. We appreciate you.”

No matter how you embed these and other tactics into your engagement approach, it’s imperative to regularly ensure that the people helping your organization see how they are part of something bigger.

Invest in and Support Their Development

When you invest in people, they will help make your programs and services better. Volunteerism is a relationship—both parties must get something out of it. Whether through an intake process, structured conversations during a stay interview or just casually getting to know your volunteers, identify ways to help them be better community members and volunteers. You can make volunteer development plans per person, or you may identify some themes and team up with corporate partners to do in-kind training or professional development seminars. It doesn’t need to have a high cost to see a high return. Engage skills-based volunteers to help you invest in and support your volunteers. Don’t forget to acknowledge their progress through LinkedIn endorsements, a simple digital certificate of completion, organizational leadership’s acknowledgment or a social media post this April using #GVM. Invite your volunteers and community to grow with you and thank them for their time and dedication to being an even better volunteer.

Though these three concepts may seem simple, they will have a larger impact than you can imagine. You will create volunteer champions to drive word-of-mouth engagement and expand your organization’s reach. Remember to invest in excellence, leveraging strategic volunteer engagement to drive your mission forward. Be sure to celebrate volunteers year-round and move appreciation from an annual event to an ongoing activity to inspire and engage your volunteer champions.

Whether you do it across your organization or pilot it with just the volunteers you engage, thank your volunteers at your annual appreciation event, use Good Deeds Day as a touchpoint and recognize your volunteers this Global Volunteer Month. By taking a birds-eye-view of your current volunteer engagement practices, you’ll continue to push yourself and your organization to do better for your volunteers and your community.

Kayla Paulson
CVA, National Service Enterprise Administrator for AL!VE

Volunteer engagement professional, consultant, coach and trainer empowering nonprofits, companies and individuals by helping them realize their volunteer and employee engagement potential.