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Guest blogger Kristen Cambell is Program Director for the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), a Congressionally chartered nonprofit that measures, tracks, and advocates for civic participation in the areas of national and community service, history and civics education, and political involvement. Prior to joining NCoC, Kristen worked here at the Case Foundation, so we're thrilled that she continues to contribute valuable posts to our blog.
April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, a celebration of the people who give their time and talent in service to making their communities a better place.
HandsOn Network explains that since being established in 1974, the week has served to honor and recognize the spirit of volunteerism by “focus[ing] national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as an integral aspect of our civic leadership.” This year, there are two signature service days occurring during this week of celebration: Earth Day and Global Youth Service Day. In addition, many organizations will host events in honor and appreciation of the volunteers.
Volunteers are important, because beyond providing integral service to communities and individuals in need, their presence is a building block in cultivating meaningful and impactful civic engagement and creating a civically healthier society. The spirit volunteers bring to solving community problems and the hope they instill in the individuals and institutions they serve are critical components to growing trust and increasing connectivity between individuals and for institutions.
Recognition and appreciation of volunteers is important, because a 2007 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that one out of three volunteers do not return. Retention of volunteers is important, because recruitment of new ones is both timely and costly. Retention of volunteers means you first have to recruit them—studies show the number one reason people serve is because someone asked them. But getting them there may be the easy part—keeping them engaged requires providing a meaningful opportunity where the volunteer feels their skills and time are a valuable asset to a project.
Additionally, sometimes the language we use can deter potential volunteers—the 2008 Civic Health Index found that words such as “service” and “civic engagement” may carry dissociative or even negative connotations with certain audiences, so it is important to know your potential volunteer base and use terms that will best resonate with them.
Happy National Volunteer Week!