Where would we be without volunteers? If your organization is like the Reid Park Zoo, you would not be able to function as efficiently, nor effectively without volunteers. They keep us organized in the office, do community outreach, and educate guests. They donate time and resources, and ensure the organization is achieving its mission. Volunteers are truly the backbone of many organizations and worth more than the national average of $27.20 per hour.

April 18-24th is National Volunteer Week. During this week, and throughout the year, it’s important that we celebrate the people who donate their time and talents. We should also take time to recognize the reasons people volunteer. Through this, we can create meaningful opportunities and celebrate them appropriately. 

Why people volunteer:

  • Personal ties – many people volunteer because they have a connection to the organization. For these volunteers, create activities that directly relate to the mission, as this drives volunteers to be of service.
  • Gain work experience – In order to get a job, you need experience. Volunteering gives young people, or people looking for a new job, the opportunity to gain insight and work experience. As a volunteer manager, create opportunities for volunteers to develop soft skills that are transferable. These skills include communication, leadership, work ethic, and teamwork.
  • Setting a good example – A driving factor for many parents to volunteer is setting a good example for their children. If you haven’t already, consider allowing families to volunteer together. This helps young children to become involved in their community and creates invaluable family bonding time.
  • Meeting like-minded people – Meeting people outside of school or work can be challenging. When volunteering, it’s easy to meet people with similar interests and values. As a volunteer manager, create social opportunities to encourage volunteer bonding. 
  • Gaining greater perspective, self awareness, and empowerment – Volunteering gives people the chance to serve others, broaden their horizons, and empowers them to make a difference. This is the key to creating an empathetic society that accepts and values people for their differences.

How we celebrated at Reid Park Zoo:

At the Zoo, the worth of our volunteer’s time during 2020 was over half a million dollars; in non COVID years, it was valued at over one million dollars. To show our appreciation, we have an annual volunteer dinner. Volunteers and their guests can gather at the Zoo, enjoy a BBQ meal, and reconnect with other volunteers and staff. Safety was still a priority –meals were pre-packed and tables distanced 6 feet apart. Everyone could also walk around the Zoo and view the animals that their hard work positively impacted.

Volunteers also received  a goodie bag containing the following items:

  • Coupons from First Watch
  • Program – listed the impact they had on the Zoo and thanked them for their service
  • Years of service certificate – given to those in milestone years (1, 5, 10, 15, etc. years of service)
  • Animal pins – given to those who hit milestone, lifetime hours (50, 150, 500, 1000, 1500, etc, hours)
  • Branded, Reid Park Zoo M&Ms
  • Anteater cookie – fun addition of the Zoo’s logo

This year’s dinner was scaled back but still greatly appreciated by all. Everyone had a wonderful time and were so happy to be able to see their volunteering friends in person. If you are hosting a volunteer event this year — tag us @SAVMA.org so we can see your photos and share them with the community!