President Obama made it official in a proclamation last week to the American people: April 15- 21, 2012, is National Volunteer Week.
Sponsored by Points of Light, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has been endorsed by every subsequent president. It has grown exponentially each year, with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week all over the United States and North America.
According to Points of Light, National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.
In his proclamation, President Obama stated the importance of volunteering:
“With every hour and every act, our lives are made richer, our communities are drawn closer, and our country is forged stronger by the dedication and generous spirit of volunteers. I encourage every American to stand up and play their part — to put their shoulder up against the wheel and help change history’s course.”
Volunteering not only has an impact on local social and community needs, it is also important to the national economy. Independent Sector recently announced that the average value of a volunteer hour had reached $21.79 in 2011, an increase of 43-cents over the previous year.
That can really add up. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, in 2010 about 62.8 million Americans — or 26.3 percent of the adult population — gave 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth over $173 billion. (The 2011 volunteer numbers should be available later this summer.)
MCF members are already involved. In particular, corporate grantmakers, and the companies they belong to, do a lot to encourage volunteerism among their employees, and many belong to the local chapter of the Corporate Volunteerism Council. One prominent example is Target, which is serving as a lead sponsor for National Volunteer Week.
You or your organization can get involved too! Hands on Network is offering a special National Volunteer Week Resource Guide (PDF) to help your organization plan an event or galvanize your volunteer base.
For individuals or small groups interested in volunteering, President Obama suggested the resources at United We Serve, a nationwide service initiative that helps meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn.
Join the conversation: How are you participating in National Volunteer Week?
-Kaitlin Ostlie, MCF administrative assistant