national volunteer week

National Volunteer Week: Putting Others Above Oneself

In 1974, President Richard Nixon established the National Volunteer Week. It is a global event during the third week of April, recognizing the efforts of individuals who have dedicated their time and skills toward helping their communities. 

The US also considers April to be National Volunteer Month. Other countries also celebrate Global Volunteer Month. This celebration reveals the power of taking action by showcasing various groups, from conservation organizations to local food banks. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: April - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background

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President Nixon recognized the value of volunteerism and issued an executive order in 1974 to establish National Volunteer Week, honoring volunteers and their contributions to society. Since then, the NVW movement has spread to other countries as well. 

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush announced the Points of Light Foundation during NVW. The foundation has conferred the Daily Point of Light Award to thousands of people in recognition of their service.  

In 1993, Volunteer Canada also started promoting NVW events throughout the country. 

Over the years, NVW has shed light on the different aspects of volunteer work and their impact on community development. For example, it has focused on youth contributions and the role of businesses in driving community service and improving volunteer management. 

The awareness event celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, substantially increasing global participation.

Each year, National Volunteer Week adopts a new theme that inspires a culture of service. For example, the theme for National Volunteer Week 2023 was “The Change Makers.” And on its 50th anniversary in 2024, it will be “Shining a Light on the People that Inspire Us to Serve.”

The Cause and Its Challenges

National Volunteer Week promotes volunteers who devote their time to various causes and communities. Their efforts improve their communities’ quality of life, address public service gaps in public services, and promote a sense of shared responsibility. Moreover, they share a commitment and selfless dedication to service and leave a significant impact.

Volunteerism faces several challenges, including a lack of health, education, and community resources. This lack often restricts the potential of volunteers working in underfunded and understaffed organizations. Additionally, many volunteers feel unappreciated despite their efforts and contributions.

Studies by the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps reveal that 60.7 million Americans volunteered in 2021, generating $122.9 billion in financial value of services. However, many of these individuals may feel invisible and unrecognized, leading to burnout, especially for volunteers balancing their work with full-time jobs and other responsibilities.

More Reasons Why National Volunteer Week Matters

young volunteers
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  • There is no universal method of quantifying the economic value of volunteering worldwide. However, some studies estimated that if all volunteers form a country1, it would have the second-largest adult population and the seventh-largest economy.
  • Volunteering can contribute to one's mental well-being. Helping others can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. Additionally, volunteering can give people a sense of happiness and satisfaction.
  • Volunteers play a role in protecting the environment. They plant trees, clean rivers, and conserve biodiversity. Their work also helps combat climate change and strengthen natural habitats.
  • The United Nations sees volunteer service as necessary for achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Volunteerism and managing volunteers are crucial aspects of the fight against poverty and in promoting education and health.
  • Technology has connected willing volunteers with their preferred causes, allowing them to make a difference from the comfort of their homes.

Read more: Volunteering Facts and Statistics.

Efforts and Initiatives

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program is a global initiative that annually integrates thousands of volunteers into peace and development causes. It works closely with international partners. 

In the United States, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) celebrates campaigns like Serve America Together. These campaigns encourage citizens to engage in community service and bridge societal divisions. 

Meanwhile, the European Solidarity Corps offers young people in Europe a chance to contribute to national and international projects. Internationally, the Do Something non-profit organization has transformed volunteer engagement by using the internet to encourage younger generations to become change catalysts from the comfort of their homes.

How to Get Involved and Support National Volunteer Week

male volunteer
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  • Celebrate National Volunteer Week in-person events like local service projects in nature parks, national parks, conservation groups, or beach clean-up drives. Plant trees in the local park, sign up for a community garden, or join a litter-picking squad. In this way, you can improve your civic life.
  • Show appreciation to current volunteers for their dedication and encourage new volunteers to continue.
  • If you want to be a volunteer for the environment, adopt a recycling strategy within the home beyond recycling cans and bottles. For example, you can start composting kitchen waste, minimizing landfill contribution, and fostering a thriving garden.
  • Use social media to share volunteer opportunities. You can also recommend articles, infographics, and documentaries to teach others about the spirit of volunteerism. Click on to our giving back and social work quotes for more inspiration.


National Volunteer Week inspires us to recognize volunteers to emphasize the impact of collective action and promote community spirit. This event also invites us to reflect on our potential to tackle society's greatest challenges and bring about meaningful change. It reminds us of the boundless spirit of volunteerism that turns good intentions into concrete actions.

National Volunteer Week FAQs

1. What is National Volunteer Week?

National Volunteer Week celebrates and recognizes the contributions of volunteers in their communities. You can join special events scheduled throughout the week.

2. When is National Volunteer Week celebrated?

National Volunteer Week occurs in the third week of April.

3. Who can participate in National Volunteer Week?

Anyone willing to give their time and skills to impact their local communities positively can participate in National Volunteer Week.

4. What types of volunteer activities can I participate in?

You can help at local food banks, clean up parks and beaches, volunteer at animal shelters, assist the elderly or disabled, and support community events, among many others.

5. How can I participate in volunteer projects for National Volunteer Week?

You can contact local non-profit organizations, check community bulletin boards, search online volunteer databases, or call your local government for suggestions and recommendations.

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Salamon, L. M., Sokolowski, S. W., & Haddock, M. A. (2011). MEASURING THE ECONOMIC VALUE OF VOLUNTEER WORK GLOBALLY: CONCEPTS, ESTIMATES, AND a ROADMAP TO THE FUTURE. Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, 82(3), 217–252.

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