It was in 1943 that National Volunteer Week was first conceived to recognize the contribution women made to the war effort. Women worked just as hard as the men who were serving in the military but received no compensation for their efforts. After the war, the week declined in popularity until it was revived in the 1960s. Volunteer Canada delivers National Volunteer Week from April 23 to 29 to identify and recognize those volunteers who contribute to the community without a formal role or position.
The Value of Volunteers
While you may know that volunteering has a powerful impact on your community, you may not recognize specific benefits. Here are some of the ways volunteering works:
- Promotes active participation in society
- Gives everyone a voice in the community
- Strengthens your community
- Increases the ability to deliver services to those who are in need
- Promotes general well-being and a sense of belonging
- Connects people to the causes they care about
- Offers duties to the volunteers
Statistics About Volunteering
Volunteer Canada reports that in 2013 Canadians gave close to two billion volunteer hours. That’s over 38 million full-time jobs for which organizations do not have to provide a salary.
Senior adults give, on average, about 223 hours each year. While this definitely benefits nonprofits, it also has a positive effect on seniors by reducing stress-related illnesses, increasing self-esteem and preventing isolation.
Volunteer Canada studies volunteers. In 2013, the organization found these characteristics of today’s volunteers:
- They have goals of their own.
- Volunteers want to see results.
- Volunteers are self-directed and do not want to be micromanaged.
- They have many different interests, and while they bring professional skills to the table, many volunteers want to use different skills when volunteering.
Choose To Be a Volunteer
It might be difficult to figure out where that time is coming from in your busy schedule. Consider this: When you are volunteering, you can really connect with people. It’s not simply busyness in which you feel like you’re just going in circles. Many employers have agreements with employees who want to give back to the community. Talk to your boss about finding time or support within your job.
You don’t have to volunteer with people to make a difference. Animal rescue organizations need help. Maybe you like books or nature? Find a group that supports something close to your heart, and ask to help. If you need help finding an organization, Volunteer Canada has many resources and can point you to local groups that match your needs.
Paula Speevak, President and CEO of Volunteer Canada, wrote, “In addition to honouring the 12.7 million Canadians who volunteer in non-profit organizations, during Canada’s 150th anniversary, let’s embrace all the wonderful ways people care. Care for each other and for the earth; from helping neighbours to mobilizing networks to raise awareness and funds for issues that matter to them.”
If you are part of an organization that uses volunteers, make sure to recognize their efforts, not only in April, but all year long. Remember how much more your group can do because you have volunteers who are making a difference.