Celebrating the Power and Dedication of Volunteers

Best Practices : Article

Did you know that April 15-22 is National Volunteer Week in the United States?  This special celebration of volunteerism was first recognized in 1974 by the Points of Light Foundation. They wanted to create “an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community” to say thanks… and to inspire others to find ways to take action that creates change.

A study commissioned and published by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016 reported that in 2015 there were 62.6 million volunteers in the United States.  Some interesting data about those volunteers:

  • Volunteers come in all ages – about 28.5% of adults between the ages of 35-54 volunteered in 2015, but teenagers weren’t far behind at 26%, and those over 55 were just slightly less likely to volunteer at 25%.
  • The median hours spent volunteering was 52, and that’s a lot of time.
  • While many of the volunteer hours are spent working for religious or civic organizations, more than half are spent on professional, medical, technical, and trade associations.
  • One of the statistics that jumps out of the report is that those who are employed full-time are just slightly more likely than all others to volunteer – proving the observation that iconic American Comedian Lucille Ball made, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do!”

I never get tired of celebrating the men and women who work with passion for pay, and then turn around and work as volunteers with even more passion shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues or competitors to change things and make them better.

As my good friend Susan Neely said recently, “The freedom to associate has always been one of this country’s most cherished rights and among its greatest strengths. The Sons of Liberty brought together the separated classes of shopkeepers, political leaders, and common folk to confront the power of the British crown. The suffragettes formed the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 to organize competing voices under a single banner and amplify their cause. And more recently, the NAACP helped unify disparate voices throughout America in a convincing call for racial justice. When companies or individual professionals join forces for a common cause, they, too, demonstrate the impact of collective action.”

This IS what associations do.  Beyond all the mechanics of building a member database or keeping minutes of board meetings; beyond the bylaws and the events management, great associations mobilize the exceptional talent and wide reach of their members to build a stronger nation and world.  The American Society of Association Executives calls this “The Power of A” – or the Power of Association.

I think that’s something to celebrate!

So here’s an enthusiastic round of applause for all of the volunteers who are making things better and stronger in the associations that Virtual manages, and in all of the great associations in this country and around the world!  Bravo!


About the Author

Elissa Myers DMG A Virtual Company

Elissa Matulis Myers is a strategic visionary for associations. With a deep background in association management, she works with clients to develop organizational plans that help them optimize their potential. In over 40 years as an association executive, she has developed a passion and expertise for helping associations achieve their missions by reaching beyond their geographic boarders. Elissa is currently the CEO of the Academy of Eating Disorders in her role as a Senior Vice President of DMG – A Virtual company. She has previously served as the CEO of the Electronic Retailing Association and the Partnership for Prevention, as well as helped literally hundreds of associations to strengthen their governance process and their strategic orientation.

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