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Volunteer Week Is When?

By Patrick Sullivan - April 9, 2012

President Barack Obama knows volunteering is important, but apparently the subject is not quite important enough for the staff to fact-check. In a proclamation issued today, the White House erroneously announced April 8 through April 14 as National Volunteer Week (NVW).

NVW is actually April 15 to April 21, but whenever it is, it gives nonprofits around the country a chance to recognize and honor volunteers’ value to their organizations.

“National Volunteer Week is about celebrating people doing extraordinary things through service,” said Anne O’Neill, media relations officer for Points of Light Institute (PoL) in Atlanta, Ga. PoL and its volunteer arm, HandsOn Network, has been sponsoring NVW for two decades. “During the week, we focus on honoring the people and organizations dedicated to taking action and addressing problems in their communities,” she said.

President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week in 1974. It has garnered the support of every president since, as well as governors, members of Congress and local governments around the country. “Service is a lifelong pursuit that strengthens the civic and economic fabric of our nation,” said President Obama via the ill-timed proclamation. “I call upon all Americans to observe this week by volunteering in service projects across our country and pledging to make service a part of their daily lives.”

PoL will be holding two events this year. The first will be a panel discussion on April 17 at the 2012 Business and Civic leadership National Conference hosted by Points of Light’s campaign A Billion + Change. The discussion will center on skills-based volunteering.

The second event, to be held two days later, will recognize Make a Difference Day winners, each of whom will receive a $10,000 grant. Actor Kevin Bacon, founder of SixDegrees.org — an initiative partnership with Network for Good, a Bethesda, Md.-based social network for charities — will give the keynote address.

PoL is also running the Celebrating People in Action storytelling contest. Volunteers can tell their stories on PoL’s Facebook page for a chance to win a cruise for two to Alaska.

PoL has a downloadable resource guide on its website for other nonprofits looking to make the most of National Volunteer Week. The kit contains logos, website banners, public relations and social media tips and templates for press releases, media advisories, planning checklists, proclamation requests and volunteer recruitment flyers and forms. The kit is aimed at maintaining “consistent branding and messaging regarding National Volunteer Week.”

There’s still time to get cracking, although you wouldn’t know it from the proclamation.

The value of an hour of a volunteer’s time increased about 2 percent during 2011 to $21.79, up from $21.36 in 2010. It is nearly triple the rate from 1980, according to Independent Sector in Washington, D.C.

“We know how critical this value is to the staff and volunteers who give their time to improve life for others,” said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector.

Since 1980, the value of one volunteer hour has increased $14.33, from $7.49. Of American states and territories, the District of Columbia had the highest value, at $33.61. Puerto Rico had the lowest rate at $11.41. Among the 50 states, Connecticut had the highest value, $27.77, and Montana had the lowest at $15.28. Generally, northeastern states had the highest dollar values and Midwest and southern states had the lowest. These figures are for 2010, the most recent state-by-state data available.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent government agency that oversees volunteering in the United States, about 26.3 percent of the U.S. adult population — 62.8 million people — volunteered 8.1 billion hours worth $173 billion in 2010.

Independent Sector calculated the value of volunteer hours using average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers on nonfarm payrolls gleaned from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and added 12 percent to account for fringe benefits. Nonprofits often use the value of a volunteer hour for volunteer recognition and communications that show an organization’s community impact, as well as for financial statements such as grant proposals and annual reports.

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