Today marks the first day of Volunteer Appreciation Week; a week that shines a light on the importance of valuing and acknowledging the incredible worth of hard-working volunteers around the world.

But what is volunteering?

“Volunteerism – the act of contributing free labor to conduct community service or support a nonprofit organisation.”

There are many different types and forms of volunteerism, and anyone can be a volunteer. That’s one of the best things about volunteering; there are a variety of ways for individuals to make an impact according to their interests and abilities. From helping to build a shelter from the ground up, to creating impactful content for social media; there are no limits to the ways that someone can use their powers to support organisations, make a difference, and in turn up-skill themselves whilst enjoying a potentially life-changing experience.

Volunteering is no modern day affair

The internet has provided the greatest boost yet to the popularity of volunteering, allowing people to communicate with others from all around the world. Yet volunteering is by no means a modern day trend!

The verb “to volunteer” is known to have originated in 1755, however there are mentions of the act of volunteering which can be traced in history books all the way back to medieval times in England.

Whilst humans have undoubtably been going out of their way to volunteer time and resources for animals for centuries, animal cruelty was first recognised as an issue in the 1820’s in Britain. As a response to this, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in 1824, and the first ever animal welfare group – ran mainly by volunteers – was born, with men and women of all ages giving up their time to try and shift the perceptions of how dogs in the UK were being treated.

Why is volunteering so important?

Volunteering is incredibly important for so many reasons. It’s important for the individual; enabling them to help and serve others in a selfless way, fulfilling a desire to do good and build new skills and experience. It’s important in communities; aiding in strengthening bonds, forming lasting relationships and alliances and improving the community as a whole. And it’s invaluable to nonprofit organisations, who can utilise these groups of passionate volunteers to help achieve their goals in making the world a better and safer place. Certain non-profits, wouldn’t be able to remain in operation without the help of volunteers. Plus, volunteer time is incredibly valuable—the estimated value of each volunteer hour contributed in the United States is $31.80 – that’s £25.67!

But don’t just take our word for it, see what Lucy, IAPWA’s volunteer Community Coordinator in Sheffield, has to say:

“I started volunteering for IAPWA a few months ago and I’ve never looked back! The team are so welcoming and are incredible at what they do. With their guidance and support, I’ve developed a whole host of new skills around fundraising and events.

It’s such a privilege to know I’m a valued member of a team of like-minded individuals, who share the same goal: to make a difference for animals in need. I’m excited for a summer of supporting pop up Dip For Dog events around Sheffield and being able to share the amazing work IAPWA does, all while raising money for an amazing cause.”

5 ways to make your volunteers feel special on Volunteer Appreciation Week

Dedicate a blog post to thanking your volunteers

Making a little blog like this one is a simple step towards showing your volunteers that you value them. It’s also something they can share with their family and friends, or on their social media, giving an even wider reach of appreciation.

Actively reach out to your volunteers and ask for their feedback about their experience

Everyone wants to feel seen and heard, and by giving your volunteers the opportunity to give feedback about how they find their role, you will not only give them a chance to feel valued, but may end up learning what positive changes could be made, influencing wider discussions to benefit your organisation moving forward.

Offer to give professional advice, or a mentor session

Offer those that want it the opportunity for a meeting with a staff member where they can provide feedback, make suggestions for their CV or connect them with contacts that may help them if they are looking at a career path moving forwards. Giving them that professional recognition is a great way to nurture your volunteer relationships and help them to feel supported.

Highlight a volunteer in your newsletter

Giving each volunteer a chance to have the light shone on their hard work and dedication is a wonderful way of showing gratitude as an organisation, not to mention showing your audience that there are many benefits to volunteering with you if they decide they might want to do so. Who knows, it could help you secure further volunteers down the line too! 

Host a virtual ‘Volunteer Appreciation’ party! 

With apps like Zoom or Google Meet helping to keep us more connected then ever before, throwing a virtual party for your staff and volunteers is a great way to help people feel closer to each other in the workplace, especially for remote teams! Relatively easy to set up and execute, there are all sorts of tools for quizzes and games, guaranteed to make it an evening to remember.

In fact, IAPWA will be hosting our very own Volunteer Appreciation party on 6th June with all of our Fundraising and Communications staff, plus our wonderful volunteers. Discover how it went by keeping an eye out on our Facebook page.

Interested in making a difference?

From taking a trip to the other side of the world to see the plight of animals first-hand and how you can help, to sitting behind your laptop with a cup of tea in your living room; it has never been easier to make an impact.

Do you want to make a difference to the lives of animals around the world without booking a flight? Head here to discover how you can start supporting IAPWA’s passionate work for animals from the comfort of your very own home.

Written by: Isobel Jennings
Community & Events Coordinator, IAPWA