Rob Jackson: My top three alternative approaches to Volunteers' Week events

The volunteering consultant has some unusual ideas for making them both memorable and useful

Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson

UK Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) is almost here again. In just a few short weeks all the hullabaloo will be dying down, the bunting will have been packed away for another year and many managers of volunteers will be breathing a sigh of relief that the annual lunch/reception/awards do/shindig will be completed for another year.

In this article I want to share my top three alternative approaches to Volunteers’ Week events for your consideration. If you’re behind on your planning, these could be things you try in 2018. If you’re already organised for this year, why not consider them for 2019?

Turn the tables

Instead of wheeling out the chief executive to make warm, fuzzy pronouncements about volunteers (and then spend the other 51 weeks of the year indifferent to volunteering) try this instead.

Sit the CEO in a comfy chair in the middle of the front row. If they really enjoy their senior status, feel free to make the chair a throne. Now, instead of having them say lovely things about volunteers, let them take the load off while some of your volunteers come on stage and share their stories. Let the CEO hear the unvarnished truth from real volunteers. Let them hear what life is really like on the front line for those who give their time. Afterwards, your CEO should feel more informed about, and more committed to do better by, the organisation’s volunteers.

Recognise paid staff too

Ever heard paid staff gripe "why don’t we get a recognition event?". I have, and it’s a fair comment. Yes, they get paid, but nobody works in our sector for the money.

In Volunteers’ Week, why not lay on a recognition event for volunteers and paid staff? Let the employees show their appreciation for the work of the volunteers and allow the volunteers to thank the paid staff for their support.

Effective volunteering doesn’t happen just because of the volunteer manager. Other paid staff are involved too. Let’s celebrate the support and enthusiasm they give that enables all that wonderful volunteering to happen.

Recognition is for the whole year

This idea might be especially attractive for those of you who haven’t even thought about what you’ll do for Volunteers’ Week 2018.

Do nothing.

Yes, you heard me right – don’t do anything. No event. No lunch. No cheese and wine evening. No awards. Nothing.

One of my main gripes about Volunteers’ Week events is that they are sometimes laid on so the organisation can fulfil its obligation to say thank you, not because it really wants to say thank you. Instead of spending all that time and effort on a swanky event, focus your effort and energy on making sure volunteers are truly valued every day of the year.

Have you got other ideas for alternative approaches to Volunteers’ Week events? I’d love to hear them, Let me know here.

Rob Jackson is a volunteering consultant

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