National Volunteer Week — Should genealogy societies do more to recognize volunteers?

Yesterday, April 6, marked the beginning of National Volunteer Week in both Canada and the United States. In Australia, National Volunteer Week takes place May 12 – 18, and in the UK, they will recognize their volunteers June 1 – 7. As genealogists, we rely on volunteers’ efforts to help us with our research.

This is the first article in a four-part series about volunteer recognition.

Applause01_Microsoft WordVolunteer Canada reminds us that this is the time to “recognize, celebrate and thank” volunteers. In the US, Points of Light says this week is about “inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.”

Volunteers are part of every genealogist’s research. Without volunteers, we would be at a great loss. Around the world, thousands of volunteers create online indexes, transcribe vital records, help us in genealogy society libraries, traipse through cemeteries to record headstone transcriptions, and work in archival centres.

Without volunteers, most genealogy societies would cease to exist. Who would run the library? Who would edit the newsletter and stuff it in envelopes? Who would manage the membership program? Who would organize and conduct lectures, workshops, conferences, webinars, and tours? Who would balance the budget?

I am a member of several societies in Canada, the US, and in Britain. All rely heavily on volunteers. All solicit volunteers on a regular basis in their newsletter and email messages, on their website, and in person.

Most volunteers, including me, say they do not volunteer to be thanked. They volunteer to help fellow genealogists and because they want to help preserve and promote family history. Does that mean we are off the hook and do not need to thank the volunteers who help us?

Should we in genealogy societies do a better job of thanking our volunteers? Should our volunteers feel needed? Could we better recognize what our volunteers contribute? Absolutely. Would this help us retain our volunteers and attract new ones? Absolutely.

Volunteer Canada

Points of Light

Tomorrow, I will write about how volunteers want to be recognized.

Part 2: — How volunteers want to be recognized

Part 3: — 15 ways to thank volunteers

Part 4: — Recruiting and retaining volunteers

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.

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About Gail Dever

Gail Dever is a Montreal-based genealogist and blogger and a webmaster for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
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One Response to National Volunteer Week — Should genealogy societies do more to recognize volunteers?

  1. Susan Gingras Calcagni says:

    Good practice is to primarily recognize the individual for being a volunteer, secondly thanking them for their contributions.

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