National Volunteer Week is celebrated annually during the third week of April and this year it will be observed from April 21 to 27. This week-long celebration is about placing a spotlight on inspiring figures whose invaluable seeds of kindness through volunteering are bettering the community and our world in general. This significant celebration which was established in 1974 provides the perfect opportunity to say thank you. It also challenges us to do better and look for ways to be active participants, joining hands to impact our local communities and calling for more support.
History of National Volunteer Week
The power to transform lives and our world, in general, is visible at every turn, and the National Volunteer Week raises awareness about the need to beef up volunteer efforts, and preaches the gratifying sense of fulfillment derived through acts of volunteerism. The word ‘Volunteer,’ derived from the late 16th-century French ‘volontaire,’ meaning ‘voluntary,’ was associated with the military: “one who offers himself for military service.” In the 1630s it began to transcend beyond the non-military sense.
The National Volunteer Week officially took root in the U.S. in 1974, many thanks to the 37th U.S. President, Richard Nixon, who established it with an executive order. It has since become a tradition followed by other emerging presidents to date, growing to incorporate different willing participants and featuring a variety of projects and events that span throughout the week. The National Volunteer Week is organized by the U.S. organization — Points of Light Foundation whose mission is “to inspire, equip, and mobilize people to take actions that change the world” and Volunteering Canada — a charity initiative that provides expertise on volunteerism with the lens on increasing participation and quality of volunteer experiences.
The Points of Light Foundation’s formation was inspired by President George H.W. Bush’s January 1989 rousing speech to the nation and volunteers, calling on them to become “a thousand points of light.” The Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990, while Volunteer Canada, established in 1977, draws from the establishment of the National Volunteer Week in 1943 to recognize the contributions of women on the Home Front during World War II. It aims to provide national leadership and expertise on volunteer engagement, to increase the participation, quality, and diversity of volunteer efforts.
National Volunteer Week timeline
Following the great fire that ravaged the city of Québec, the ‘Bureau des pauvres,' is powered by a group of volunteers and donations from the community and provides relief to the vulnerable
Leader in the Abolitionist movement Harriet Tubman leads hundreds of enslaved Blacks to freedom.
The community-focused Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) makes its way to the U.S.
In 1865, Salvation Army, formally known as Christian Mission, is founded by evangelist William Booth in London to help the needy.
International Volunteer Day (I.V.D.) is launched by the United Nations.
President George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address leads to the birth of the nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service.
President Bill Clinton signs this Act which lays the foundation for the founding of AmeriCorps — a national service program that fosters civic duties and addresses some of the country's most pressing challenges.
This Award is established to recognize the important role that volunteers play in building the U.S.
National Volunteer Week FAQs
When is International Volunteer Day?
The day is marked on December 5 every year.
Is there a National Volunteer Month?
In the U.S., the month of April is regarded as National Volunteer Month.
Which organization has the highest number of volunteers in the world?
Service Civil International stands as one of the biggest volunteer organizations.
How to Observe National Volunteer Week
Do more than applaud; let your impact be felt. One look around your community, and you find various ways in which you can lend your support.
Spread the word
Volunteers are often overworked, so there's always a need for more people. Be a part of the movement to call on more volunteers by using your social media handles to send the message out
Say thank you
Appreciating volunteers goes a long way to making them feel good about their impact and driving them to do more. You could do personalized gifts, host an appreciation gala, write a note, email, or thank them in person.
5 Facts About Volunteering
Volunteering peaked during the Great Depression
During the 1930s, the U.S. launched a large-scale coordinated volunteer effort to assist the millions of hungry, homeless, and unemployed people via relief efforts.
There’s a ‘Year of the Volunteer’
The year 2001 is proclaimed as the International Year of Volunteers (I.Y.V.) by the United Nations General Assembly.
Volunteers have helped in deeply tragic events
Hurricane Katrina, Haiti's deadly earthquake, Indian Ocean earthquake, and tsunami; volunteers have been there through it all. Theirs is the face you see during the most trying times, offering help and assisting with disaster relief and recovery.
The ‘United We Serve’ campaign
President Barack and Michelle Obama announced this campaign, calling for more engagement in service.
Value of volunteer hour boost
In 2020, as a result of the pandemic, the value of a volunteer hour witnessed an almost 5% boost.
Why National Volunteer Week is Important
Volunteering makes us feel great
Giving back to the community, and helping others makes us feel empowered, goal-driven, and fulfilled. We feel happier, self-confident, and embrace a more positive outlook, ushering in even greater accomplishments.
Benefits are attached
Service is about helping others, but it also comes with benefits for service. New skills, increased social interaction, self-esteem boost, recognition, awards, and a whole lot more.
It improves lives
Our world has been presented with incredible challenges. We are grateful for the lifesaving, immeasurable, selfless, and tireless service of volunteers. We have been able to rebuild a more equitable society, securing the future.
National Volunteer Week dates