Recognising Volunteers on International Volunteer Day
International Volunteer Day (December 5th each year) was created to acknowledge and show appreciation to all those people who dedicate their much needed time and skills to the many community organisations across the world.
Why recognise volunteers?
Volunteers should be acknowledged for the important contribution they make to the community. Many not-for-profit organisations would find it impossible to carry out their work without volunteers. Recognition lets volunteers know that others appreciate what they do. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and motivates them to continue volunteering.
International Volunteer Day is the perfect time for an organisation to express gratitude to its volunteers. Designed to thank volunteers and stimulate a greater awareness of their contribution, IVD is already marked in more than half the countries of the world. Become part of a global movement to honour volunteers and the amazing work they do.
When should volunteers be recognised?
Timing is important when recognising volunteers and it is nice to acknowledge contributions throughout the year, and not just on one day! Giving a small thank you regularly can add up and mean more to a volunteer than one huge thank you at the end of a long project or once a year.
How to recognise volunteers
Recognising volunteers is as simple as showing them your appreciation on a day-to-day basis. A regular and sincere thank you is still the best way to build a good recognition program. This kind of recognition is really powerful, as praising work at the time it takes place and treating volunteers as important members of the team gives them a real sense of achievement and enhances the personal satisfaction they get from volunteering.
Recognition can take many forms and one of the most important aspects is to understand what kind of recognition volunteers value individually. Some volunteers love the big yearly event, while others find it embarrasing, or don’t care for it at all. Try and vary the ways you give recognition with lots of small acknowledgements regularly and the occasional big celebration. It is a good idea to keep track of any cards, certificates or presents given out in the past, so that the same thing doesn’t get given twice. Things like birthday, anniversary and ‘life event’ cards personally written and signed can mean so much and cost very little.
You can download our 101 ways to recognise volunteers factsheet for more ideas and resources
International Volunteer Day is a chance for individual volunteers, communities and organisations to promote their contributions to development at the local, national and international levels. By combining UN support with a grassroots mandate, International Volunteer Day is a unique opportunity for people and volunteer-involving organisations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia and the private sector.
The International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution A/RES/40/212 on 17 December 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organisations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day on 5 December.
A focus on partnership and development
Through the years, International Volunteer Day has been used strategically: many countries have focused on volunteers’ contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a set of time-bound targets to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.
The organisation of International Volunteer Day is generally the result of a partnership between the UN system, governments, volunteer-involving organisations and committed individuals. Representatives from the media or academia, foundations, the private sector, faith groups, and sports and recreational organisations are often involved too.
The cultural form and definition of a volunteer may change depending on circumstances, but the underlying principle never wavers: every individual can make a difference in society. Beyond helping to promote the greater good, volunteers enrich their own lives. As one volunteer recently put it, “I feel as though I am able to make a difference in the world and use my skills. It allows me to genuinely feel as though I am part of the world community.”
How to get involved
The World Volunteer Web – the global focal point for the International Volunteer Day campaign – hosts a range of tools and resources for volunteers and the wider volunteerism community.
Plan your event
Learn from best practices and lessons from past activities commemorating International Volunteer Day. Form or join planning committees, consult on a national theme, plan activities, produce promotional materials, develop a media strategy and document the impact of the event.
International Volunteer Day is an excellent opportunity to give people the ‘big picture’ about volunteerism, promote specific volunteering initiatives or launch new ones. Consider how to advocate the impact of volunteering, integrate the MDGs, or address community needs through a voluntary initiative.
Make use of promotional tools available online, like the International Volunteer Day logo and templates for clothing, banners, bookmarks, postcards and posters. You will also find the statements of the UN Secretary-General, UNDP Administrator and UNV Executive Coordinator online in advance.
Wy not check out our 101 ways to recognise volunteers page, for ways that you can thank your volunteers.
Access the directory of national focal points online, which connects individual volunteers to the International Volunteer Day committee in their country. You can initiate a committee in your country if none exists yet.
Send information, photos and videos about your International Volunteer Day events to [email protected] for posting on the website. Please include ‘IVD Ireland’ in the subject line of your emails; send photos as .jpeg files and keep written materials below 300 words. Your reports enable organisers, volunteers and World Volunteer Web readers to capture the wealth of activities undertaken around International Volunteer Day. This information exchange helps advocate the value of volunteering for peace and development.
Find out more at www.worldvolunteerweb.org
Ideas from UN Volunteers
UN Volunteers (www.unvolunteers.org) suggests a number of ways organisations that host volunteers can leverage this day for their own benefit: Contact organisations you networked with previously for the International Year of Volunteers (2001) and generate interest in coming together again in some way to celebrate or promote IVD.
Contact your local United Nations Association (www.wfuna.org) and collaborate together on ways to celebrate and promote IVD. Launch a new page on your web site to coincide with IVD that notes specifically the IMPACT volunteers make at your organization and in your community. Talk about the results of their contributions and detail how these contributions make a real difference.
Contact your local newspaper about someone from your organisation or from a volunteering network writing an editorial that will be published on December 5 and that will focus on the impact volunteers make specifically to your organisation and to the immediate community, and/or to society as a whole. Keep all media outlets abreast of your plans for IVD.
Choose your own theme for IVD. You can link IVD and the contributions of volunteers to critical issues facing your community, such as HIV/AIDS, children’s education, adult literacy, environmental protection, and so forth. Remember that the more people and organisations that can relate to the topic, the better your chances of garnering interest.
You may download items for IVD-related promotional materials from the International Year of Volunteers web site (www.iyv2001.org/iyv_eng/IVD). Add logos to posters, flyers, web pages and so forth.
Please compile photographs with complete captions, press clippings and short summary reports relating to volunteers and the impact they make in your community for possible inclusion on the evolving IYV web site. Details on how to submit this information will be published the first week of December.
The International Year of Volunteers
Following a proposal of the Government of Japan to the United Nations Secretary General, the 52nd session of the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. Resolution 52/17 of 20 November 1997 was co-sponsored by 123 countries. The United Nations Volunteers programme was designated as focal point for the Year within the UN system. The year led to a better appreciation of the power of volunteerism in its many forms and the ways to support it.
On 18th December 2008, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution reaffirming its recognition of the work of UNV as the focal point for the follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers, and requesting it to continue to raise awareness of the contribution of volunteerism to peace and development, to act as a convener on the subject for the various interested stakeholders, to make available networking and reference resources and to provide technical cooperation to developing countries, upon their request. Resolution 63/153 was co-sponsored by 75 countries.
The UN General Assembly is supporting the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers in 2011. A chance to build on the momentum created in 2001, this year’s International Volunteer Day is thus an excellent moment to reflect on what the 10th anniversary might achieve for volunteer-involving organisations, volunteers and communities around the world.
About United Nations Volunteers
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organisation that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide. Volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development, and it benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer. UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for volunteerism globally, encouraging partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing volunteers.
For more information about our work and to get involved, please visit these websites:
United Nations Volunteers
Postfach 260 111
Don’t forget that the International Volunteer Managers Appreciation Day takes place each year on November 5th.