April 25, 2024

Episode #107: Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2024! 

In this episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast, Tobi Johnson celebrates National Volunteer Week 2024, and shares insights into the history and significance of volunteerism! Tobi also highlights the challenges facing the nonprofit sector, including a decline in donor contributions, a labor shortage crisis impacting mission delivery, and decreased volunteer rates. 

Tobi emphasizes the promise and impact of an engaged community in supporting nonprofits, how the nonprofit sector can innovate volunteer engagement and the power that volunteerism has on our communities.  

National Volunteer Week 2024 – Episode Highlights 

  • [03:16] – Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2024: History and Importance 
  • [12:15] – The Current State of Volunteering and Nonprofits: Challenges and Opportunities 
  • [19:59] – The Promise of an Engaged Community 
  • [26:06] – Rethinking Volunteer Engagement and Leadership 
  • [29:39] – The Power of Gratitude

National Volunteer Week 2024 – Quotes from the Episode

Volunteers become more powerful because they’re working in a group and tapping the expertise of the nonprofit. And the nonprofit becomes more powerful because it gains the insight of people from the community, and it also builds its workforce.

We’re not going to get out of this by doing the same thing we’ve been doing for decades. We’re not going to change the trends without innovative thinking.

About the Show

Nonprofit leadership author, trainer, consultant, and volunteer management expert Tobi Johnson shares weekly tips to help charities build, grow, and scale exceptional volunteer teams. Discover how your nonprofit can effectively coordinate volunteers who are reliable, equipped, and ready to help you bring about BIG change for the better.

If you’re ready to ditch the stress and harness the power of people to fuel your good work, you’re in exactly the right place!

Contact Us

Have questions or suggestions for the show? Email us at wecare@volpro.net.

Rate, Review, & Follow Us on Apple Podcasts

If you love the content Tobi shares on the Volunteer Nation podcast, consider rating and reviewing the show! This helps us reach more people – and help more good causes just like yours – successfully engage enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers with less stress and more joy.

Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars. Then, select “Write a Review” and let us know what you loved most about this episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, follow the podcast so you don’t miss a thing. Follow now!

Subscribe to ProNews: Our Weekly Resource Roundup

If you’d like to stay up to date on all new podcasts, blogs, freebies, and deals posted on our Tobi Johnson & Associates and VolunteerPro websites, subscribe to our weekly ProNews newsletter.

Every Wednesday, we’ll send you a digest of our freshest content, plus a bonus! Once you confirm your subscription, you’ll get our [Free eBook] The New Volunteer Manager: The First 90 Days.

Episode #107 Transcript: Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2024! 

Tobi Johnson: Well, welcome everybody to another episode of the volunteer nation podcast. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And if you have been following me for the last few months, then you know that I have been out of house and out of home. We had a flood back in January. Our entire house was flooded due to burst pipes, and we have been building back. And today is the first podcast I’ve been able to record from my home. 

We are just about done with construction. We are moved back in, and we’ve got a few little niggly things here and there, but for the most part we are finally settled back in, and I’m saying this because I’m still trying to figure out where is the best place to record my podcast, how to set up my room so it doesn’t sound echoey. 

You’d be surprised by all the things that go into podcasting to make the sound right. In my other house, I know exactly where I can get the best sound in my house because I tested it all out. But here, I’m not quite sure yet. And my office isn’t really set up. I’m sort of on a folding table. I don’t have any rugs. 

I don’t have any soft things that can absorb sound. So, if it sounds a little weird, that’s why. Because I’ve been going from place to place to place. I think we’ve gone to four different temporary housing spots during our last 90 days. And so yes, it does feel good to finally be home. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again, just being displaced like this has really given me deep appreciation for those of you who work in disaster services, because it really does completely upend your life. 

And it’s been a challenge for us, my husband and myself and my kitty cat. But we have bounced back and I’m hoping to get some things in order now and sort of been running to keep pace. One of the things that’s been delayed is our volunteer management progress report survey results. So, I know many of you have asked me about it, gotten emails about it. 

I am working on it this month in April. Yes, it’s going to come out super late this year, but I’m hoping to get that out in the next few weeks. So, hang tight. I will get to it. It’s just that we’ve been juggling a lot of stuff. That’s where I’m at in my life right now. Thanks for listening. Things are going to sound a little hollow maybe today in my recording, but Chloe and the team of editors that helped me are going to probably create some magic with my recording and make it sound better. 

So anyway. Let’s move on to our topic for today, which is Celebrating National Volunteer Week 2024. Yes, it is that time of year, the third week in April, where we celebrate and raise awareness about volunteerism. National Volunteer Week, often we’re running around as leaders of volunteers, getting our volunteer appreciation events together, doing days of service, all kinds of fun stuff. 

And we don’t take a pause sometimes to figure out or even to think about what it really means. Aside from this week in the month of April, where we pause to celebrate volunteering, do we ever think about what it means, and particularly right now, why it’s important? For today’s episode, I want to talk about this and I’m going to talk a little bit about the history of National Volunteer Week. 

I started digging into it because I was curious and thought, huh, this is interesting. So, the surprise, some surprises I would say. So, I’ll share those later. But if you want to hear last year’s episode National Volunteer Week 2023, Volunteer Nation episode 54, I talk about a year to be grateful, and some of the reasons why we are fans of volunteerism and what volunteerism does for society. 

So, it’s a great companion to today’s episode. I talk about volunteering as a way of life for people in our communities. I talk about volunteerism as a very unique enterprise in the world. There’s nothing quite like it. And I talked about volunteerism showing signs of recovery since our pandemic. 

And so, check that out. Even though it’s for 2023 Volunteer Nation, episode 54, National Volunteer Week 2023, it’s still got great value and great, if you haven’t had a chance to listen, some great insights. So, let’s talk about National Volunteer Week 2024 and kick it off with the history. So, this year, Points of Light commemorates 50 years of National Volunteer Week celebrations. 

It takes place, for those of you who are new to the field of volunteerism or new to National Volunteer Week, it takes place every April during Global Volunteer Month. Now, Volunteer Week isn’t always in April for all countries in Australia, for example, it’s in a different month, but those of us in the U.S and Canada, this is when Volunteer Week, National Volunteer Week is happening, we’re almost at the end of it this week, when this airs, this episode airs, but National Volunteer Week was first broadcast. put together in Canada. It was first formed in Canada, which doesn’t surprise me. The Canadians in our audience, you all know you, you guys are always above, ahead of the curve on things, but it was first conceived in 1943 to celebrate the contributions made by women on the home front to the war effort. 

So, it’s all about women and, and the things we were doing back then and things we’re doing now. After World War II ended, National Volunteer Week declined in popularity until the 60s, when it was revived and eventually began gaining popularity in the U. S. as well. In the 70s, then President Richard Nixon, established a National Volunteer Week here in the States via a presidential proclamation. 

I mean, this is just proving that sometimes our volunteer champions come from unlikely sources. Am I right? So, on April 20th, 1974, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation saying like, look, this is National Volunteer Week. And I might be interesting to read some of this proclamation because things have not changed that much. 

The feelings and sentiment around people in the community giving their time and talent has not changed that much. It’s kind of interesting. This is, you know, 1974. It’s been a right? So, you know, that’s 50 years ago. Some of us weren’t alive then. Right? I was, of course, but some of you weren’t. I’m going to read some of the proclamation. 

This is from President Richard Nixon. There are abundant opportunities for every concerned American to reap the rewards that come from helping others. We must continue to support these vital activities, and we must work to extend and enhance the valuable and satisfying services of our volunteers. Now, therefore, I, Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate the calendar week beginning April 21, 1974 as National Volunteer Week. I urge all Americans to observe that week by seeking out an area in their community in which they can give to a needy individual or a worthy cause by devoting a few hours or more each week to volunteer service. 

I mean, don’t you love that? He’s calling out like, hello, you traditional volunteers, we need you every single week. I love that. I call upon all communities throughout the U.S. to recognize volunteers by observing the week with special ceremonies to honor those who have given countless hours for the betterment of our communities and the American way of life. 

So, you know, it’s not only about recognizing volunteers. It’s all about celebrating volunteerism, amplifying that this activity exists and that people have an opportunity and an open invitation to take part. You know, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially every year. There are thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week. 

Many of you have been hosting and attending events like these. And as I said, other countries have similar celebrations that occur at the same time or different times throughout the year. Here’s the thing. Of course, it’s an opportunity to honor the significant impact of those who do good in our community. 

It is also a time to inspire others to step up and make a difference. And I think we always must keep in mind both of those two aims when we look at National Volunteer Week and celebrating it. The third thing I think that we should also celebrate this week is the work of leaders of volunteers like you. 

Because your work isn’t always easy, especially in today’s world. It’s difficult to get people engaged. It’s more difficult across the board in all kinds of sectors, not just volunteerism. And so, your work is so valuable to making this all happen, right? It doesn’t happen without leaders of volunteers. It just doesn’t. 

And well trained and high-capacity leaders of volunteers This week is an opportunity to acknowledge the work of volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice, and resources to meet those vital needs in our communities. But in today’s world, time is one of our most valuable assets. Whatever time that volunteers donate, to whatever extent, we need to celebrate their ability to spark change. 

What’s more, when we share their stories, it inspires other people to act, to realize their own power and influence for change and to become a transformative force in the world. Whatever you’re doing this week, whether it be special events, volunteer projects, social media, reflections, storytelling, anything you’re doing that takes place this week demonstrates to the world that every person has the power to make a difference. 

But when they work with others, they are truly unstoppable. So, it really is about the collective synergy of volunteerism. And I think that’s a message that we need to continue to share. When the community partners with our nonprofits and our volunteer driven organizations, we become much more powerful. 

Volunteers become more powerful because they’re working in a group and tapping the expertise of the nonprofit. And the nonprofit becomes more powerful because it gains the insight of people from the community and builds its workforce. And so, it really is a mutually synergistic type of relationship. 

Now, I also believe that this year in particular, National Volunteer Week 2024 is. really vital. We need volunteers now more than ever. There are some intense impacts on the nonprofit sector right now. And I want to talk about a couple of those. The economy and a decline in community participation is impacting the capacity of nonprofits to deliver other missions. 

Now, I was speaking during our volunteer magnet free workshop last week and someone asked in the chat, does the economy impact volunteering and levels of volunteering? And I have not seen research to that effect. However, the economy does impact the experience of volunteers. It may not impact how many volunteers step up, but it does impact the experience of volunteers and may impact how long they stay. 

And so, I think it’s important as we celebrate this National Volunteer Week 2024 that there are impacts on our nonprofits that also impact our volunteers. So, we can’t say that our volunteers work in a hermetically sealed environment where they don’t feel the pressures that staff feel because they do, they notice, right? 

Here are some facts that have been bolstered by research and in the show notes for today, I’ve got tons of links from all these research studies. So, if you want any of these stats, just go to our website on Tobijohnson.com Just look up this episode, which will be, episode 107 and you’ll find tons of links to research. 

I just want to put that out there in case you love to look at these stats in more detail. But let’s go through a couple of these. One is that giving is not growing. However, the need for community support and services is growing. So, giving isn’t growing and giving is flat in terms of individual donations, but the need for community services is. 

So, giving is not keeping pace with, and I’m talking about financial giving right now, with our needs. our community needs. So that’s a problem. Here’s some facts. In Canada, total giving remains stable with slight increases year over year, but from fewer donors. So, this was a recent study in Canada. In the U.S.A., the share of American households that give to charity has been steadily falling over the past two decades. It’s less than half now. So less than half of our households in the U. S. give to charity, compared with two thirds of all households in the early 2000s. So, we’re losing our connections with our community. 

In addition, the number of donors who gave on Giving Tuesday in 2023 was down 10 percent over the previous year. So, we’ve dropped 10 percent on our Giving Tuesday individual donations. So, these are sobering statistics. There’s another impact. So, first, you know, our resources just aren’t there like they used to be. 

You know, we’re having a problem connecting with our donors, our individuals in the community to help our nonprofits out, and fewer people are donating. That’s a problem. The second challenge is that nonprofits are facing a labor shortage crisis that’s impacting programming and mission delivery. In fact, some organizations are shuttering programs. 

There was some industry research recently that said that nonprofits are facing unprecedented financial challenges that are disrupting their ability to deliver their missions. Nearly three out of four nonprofits have job vacancies. 71 percent saw an increase in the need for services. So, we’re seeing this across the board in our research and more than one third of nonprofits, 68 percent, plan to cut programs and services soon. 

So, not only are our resources dropping, but need is also increasing, and nonprofits are not keeping pace, so they’re having to cut programs and services. So, what happens in our communities when we’re not there to help? You know, things can get worse. Things can get worse and so we’ve got to think about how we can turn this around in addition and many of you know this Volunteer rates are down at least as far as we know Rates in the U.S dropped six-point eight percent between 2019 and 2021. We don’t have the current rates on volunteerism Yet from AmeriCorps usually they release the volunteering and civic life in America report every couple of years. We’re still waiting for that. But this rate was the lowest in two decades when this drop happened, basically in past recorded history, the lowest amount of volunteerism. 

And it was followed by in 2016, the highest spike in in volunteers and right after the election in 2016, 2016 and 2017 had a huge spike in people volunteering, but then we had a pandemic and that impacted us. Now we’ll say that in our volunteer management progress report, we are hearing reports from those who participate in our report that they are actually seeing higher numbers of volunteers, higher numbers of average hour per volunteer. 

All right. And again, I’ll be releasing that report soon, but that might just be our little corner of the universe. Our followers, the people that follow and learn from VolunteerPro may not be the whole nonprofit sector. If you want to hear more about why volunteers are important, I’ve just talked about some pretty sobering data, right? 

And believe me, after the break, I’m going to talk about some good news too, okay? And a call to action. But don’t let this stop you. We can’t let these facts stop us. They need to really inspire us to lean in and get more creative and be more focused and be more focused. If you want to learn more about why volunteers are important, you can check out Volunteer Nation episode 69, Why are volunteers important or are they? 

Obviously, it’s a rhetorical question. Of course, they’re important more, but I talk more about why they matter so much to our work. So, if you want to learn more about that, you can listen to that episode for some additional upbeat calls to action. But let’s take a pause right now for a quick break from my reflections as we celebrate National Volunteer Week 2024. When I get back, I’m going to talk to you about the positive, the upside, the promise of what happens when we have an engaged community. So, don’t go anywhere, I will be right back. 

If you’re enjoying this week’s episode of volunteer nation, we invite you to check out the volunteer pro premium membership This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting engaging and supporting dedicated high impact volunteers Volunteer talent for your good cause. 

Volunteer Pro Premium Membership helps you build or renovate an effective volunteer program with less stress and more joy. So, you can ditch the overwhelm and confidently carry your vision forward. And it’s the only implementation program of its kind that helps your organization build maturity across five phases of our proprietary system. 

The Volunteer Pro Premium. Strategy success path. If you’re interested in learning more, visit volpro.net/join 

Okay, we’re back with my reflections as we celebrate National Volunteer Week 2024. And I promised before the break that I would share a little bit more positive story before the break. I talked about the labor shortage crisis in the nonprofit sector. I talked about the impact of flat donations, the trends of either declining or flat donations except it, you know, and wow, we’re having increasing needs for services. And I talked about how our volunteer rates had dropped. But there are some silver linings here. Sometimes when we find ourselves in crisis, we start to get more creative. It supports and sparks innovation. I have got to tell you, when we’ve been putting together our house, we did not plan to renovate. 

We bought a fixer upper for our retirement. We did not plan to renovate this house for another three years. But when we stepped into the house, and it was a flood, we realized, uh oh, we’re going to have to do this now. And we got pretty creative because we didn’t have any money saved. Of course we had some insurance coverage, but you know, it still costs money. 

And so, we had to get really innovative, you know, sometimes our, in our deepest hours, our darkest hours, we get the most creative and I think this might be a time for our sector to really rethink how we do things. So, there are some promises of an engaged community. There is the promise of an engaged community. 

And I think when we’re considering and reflecting on National Volunteer Week 2024, I think we need to think about this. What is the promise of an engaged community? What does it offer our nonprofits? Aside from helping hands. So, I’m going to make a point or make the argument that when the community gets involved, it gets educated about our good causes. 

The theory becomes real, and supporters begin to find several ways to lend a hand. So, you will often see people donating, volunteering, advocating, speaking out, amplifying, spreading the word, initiating projects with their businesses. There are all kinds of ways. Once people see the need and understand it, when the theory becomes real and they understand that real people are impacted by your nonprofit, they start to get to work to find out ways to support you. 

Volunteers can offer many things to a nonprofit, and I’m going to mention a few here that are the results of an engaged community. So, volunteers can help provide support to overworked nonprofit staff, freeing their time up for the kind of sophisticated planning and strategy that is really required in today’s world. 

When either our leaders of volunteers or other staff at nonprofits are too close to the ground, are working too much on the nitty gritty, they’re not able to work on strategy, they’re not able to work on their program, they’re working too much in their programs. And so, when volunteers support and offer support and are deployed in the right ways, that can give staff some breathing room. 

Because what’s required right now is innovation. We’re not going to get out of this by doing the same thing we’ve been doing for decades. We’re not going to change the trends without innovative thinking. The other thing to note is that volunteers are donors and donors are volunteers. I talk about this all the time. 

Two thirds of donor’s worldwide volunteer, according to a recent study, 73 percent of donors donate to the nonprofits they volunteer for. And so, there is a deep connection between financial giving and giving of time and talent. A deep connection. And while volunteerism isn’t necessarily a fundraising strategy, it is a wonderful benefit of getting the community involved in your work. 

And so, when I see declines in giving, I wonder why people aren’t leaning more into resourcing and innovating how they engage volunteers through volunteerism. Because sometimes that’s the first step towards financial giving. Sometimes our donors start as financial donors and become volunteers. So, I think this silo between Fundraising departments and volunteer services is not helpful, not helpful to our nonprofits at all. 

We need to start thinking about engaging the community in a synergistic way. The third thing to note is that volunteers are better able to share your organization’s story because they have lived it. If they are volunteering, they have their story, and your story becomes part of their lives. 

It becomes integrated. So, they become your best ambassadors. They are the people in your community that can speak specifically to the community’s need, the types of services you offer. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a direct service agency or an arts and culture organization or you do grassroots organizing, doesn’t matter. 

When they’re involved in your organization, they see you front and center and they understand because they’re working with you, and they get educated. As I said, when the community gets involved, it gets educated on your good cause. And so, there is the promise of an engaged community. These are the things that volunteers and the community can bring to your nonprofit. 

And I think we don’t think enough about this. I think we spend a lot of time figuring out how to get more donations and get more grants, but we don’t spend enough time thinking about how we are engaging the community. Because when the community’s engaged, it gives in all kinds of ways. So, I think for National Volunteer Week 2024, it’s time to rethink how we engage the community. 

Volunteers are not day laborers that we pick up and drop off as we need them. That’s not who these folks are. They are a powerful pool of talent that nonprofits need to learn how to engage, in new ways. There are definitely different ways we can engage volunteers. You know, gang, we need to think of volunteers as partners, not subordinates. 

Let me repeat myself on this one. We need to think of volunteers and community members as partners, not subordinates. We need to think of them as on the level playing field with us, with us having. talent, interests, ideas, expertise that are equal to or above what we have in our staff teams. We also need to improve how we describe the opportunities for transformation that we are offering in clear and compelling terms so that volunteers don’t pass us by. 

I think one of the reasons we’re having trouble engaging people in our nonprofits missions is because we have not made a compelling case. Usually, our websites and our materials are filled with requirements for volunteers and very little about what volunteers are going to bring about, what change is going to happen, what is happening in your organization because volunteers are involved. 

And that message is not getting out there. It’s not getting out there. Volunteering is starting to feel like a job. And it’s not a job. That’s not why people volunteer. People do not volunteer. I say this all the time. People do not volunteer because they want to work for free. They’re not going around looking, I want to find a job where I don’t get paid. 

No, they’re volunteering because they want to change the world. And so, to be volunteer centric in your communications, kind of think about what are they wanting? They want change. So, you’ve got to communicate the opportunity to get involved and make that change happen. Finally, I think we need to evolve our own leadership skills and promote volunteers as leaders too through shared leadership models. 

Our leadership skills need to evolve. We are in a very complex world. We’re in a divided world in a lot of ways. And so, there are specific skills around shared leadership that we need to learn as staff. And this is something that, you know, when a volunteer is strapped for cash, it’s something they don’t invest in. 

However, the ROI on becoming an exceptional leader who can influence a variety of stakeholders and can engage people in a selective or collective synergy and collective movement towards the greater good, that’s a skill that is priceless. And the ROI for that can be specific, you know, can have a real impact on the bottom line when we are able to influence and spark inspiration in others. 

So, we need to evolve and own our own leadership skills. It’s something that we do at Volunteer Pro. We do a lot of training. I watch our Volunteer Pro members evolve their leadership. It’s fantastic to see. So, happy National Volunteer Week 2024, that’s my rundown, that’s my big picture on what it means, a little bit of the history, but some things we need to think about as we move forward. 

It is a critical time, we cannot give up on our communities, and if we don’t give up on our communities, they’re not going to give up on us. So, we’ve got to keep moving forward. We need to celebrate each and every act of giving, however big or small, for the precious resource it is. And when we live that culture of gratitude, we will see it come back over and over again. 

So again, happy National Volunteer Week 2024. If you liked this episode, I hope you’ll rate us and review us, but also share it with a friend who needs a little spark of inspiration this National Volunteer Week. And if you liked it, I hope you’ll join me next week, same time, same place, for another episode of The Volunteer Nation.