Celebrating 40 years of Volunteers’ Week

Posted on the 3rd June 2024

As the 40th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week approaches, we’re proud to shine a spotlight on the profound impact of volunteering across the UK. This annual celebration, running from Monday 3 June to Sunday 9 June, pays tribute to the millions of individuals whose selfless contributions enrich our communities.

A legacy of giving back

Since its inception in 1984, Volunteers’ Week has grown into a cornerstone event, celebrated by grassroots groups and large charities alike. It serves as a platform to recognise and appreciate the tireless efforts of volunteers, whose dedication and passion drive positive change.

This year’s milestone anniversary not only honours four decades of volunteerism, but also highlights the stories and experiences of volunteers who make a difference every day.

The heartbeat of communities

Volunteers are the backbone of the voluntary sector. In 2021/22, over 14.2 million people in the UK volunteered through groups, clubs, or organisations at least once a year, with 8.3 million dedicating their time monthly.

Research from NCVO’s Time Well Spent Report 2023 shows that the reasons for volunteering are diverse, but a common thread is the desire to improve things or help people – a sentiment shared by 40% of volunteers.

Inspiring stories of volunteering

To highlight the personal impact of volunteering, we’re featuring three remarkable stories from volunteers and charity workers who have graciously shared their experiences and gratitude. These case studies offer a glimpse into the diverse ways volunteering has enriched lives and communities.

“Our volunteers help to fund research that saves lives. Whether they’re cheering on participants at one of our Race for Life events, dressing a shop window in pre-loved vintage or campaigning for change in Westminster – together, volunteers make our progress possible. Every bit of time they give helps us make a difference for people affected by cancer.”

Hannah Wiggins, Volunteer Manager at Cancer Research UK

"It's been over 20 years since my son died from a malignant brain tumour. The experience was horrendous, leaving me feeling helpless and hopeless. Local Compassionate Friends helped me see that I wasn't alone. After three years, I decided to give back and became a volunteer. I now offer one-to-one support and lead a local group of parents.

“Every time I speak to someone who's just lost a child, I remember how it felt at the beginning. We, who have lost a child, are the only ones who can offer this support, and that's why I do it."

Jan Alcock, Volunteer at Compassionate Friends

"I've been in the volunteering sector for over 16 years now and have witnessed the significant impact volunteers make in various ways to people and communities. I truly believe our communities and services wouldn't be the same without what volunteers bring and do.

“I've worked with volunteers supporting individuals at some of the most vulnerable points in their lives, whether experiencing homelessness, being victims of crime, dealing with mental health challenges, or coping with children diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses. I've seen first-hand the difference these volunteers make."

Emma Vizor, Volunteering Partner at Crisis and Volunteer for Blink Mental Health

The broader impact

Volunteering’s influence extends beyond individual stories. The UK’s voluntary sector comprises over 163,000 organisations, contributing approximately £20 billion to the GDP. These organisations rely heavily on volunteers, whose roles range from hands-on support to remote volunteering. The latter is the third most common form of engagement.

As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week, let us recognise and honour the incredible dedication of volunteers. Their contributions not only support a wide range of causes but also foster a sense of community and shared purpose. Whether through small acts of kindness or long-term commitments, volunteers make an indelible mark on society.

Get involved

Volunteers’ Week is organised by the UK Volunteering Forum, a partnership between NCVO, WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action), Volunteer Scotland, and Volunteer Now.

As we look to the future, we remain inspired by the stories of volunteers past and present. Their dedication and passion continue to be a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of collective action.

Join us in celebrating 40 years of Volunteers’ Week and the remarkable individuals who embody the spirit of volunteerism.

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