Volunteers make communities better. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations structured to engage the time and talent of volunteers. It is estimated there are 22 million people serving on boards.

Recognizing Volunteers

During National Volunteer Week in April, many organizations posted notes of gratitude for their board and committee leaders. The initiative was established in 1974.

It is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteers in addressing challenges, building communities, and being a force that focuses on solutions.

“I have worked with association volunteers for over 25 years, always amazed by the things they accomplish outside of their jobs and family lives. Volunteers are selfless individuals who feel a responsibility and desire to give back to their communities and professions, affect positive change, and contribute to the greater good,” offers Dee Kring, CAE, CMP, chief staff executive at Partners in Association Management.


While anyone can be a volunteer, not everyone steps up to the plate. In “The Hero Effect” by Kevin Brown, he explains that it takes ordinary people to step forward with a desire to help others.

“…the only people who have ever done anything significant were the people who did more than just get by. They raised their hands when the game was on the line and shouted, ‘Put me in coach.

This is exemplified when you ask how many volunteers serve on multiple boards? It is common to find the directors of a professional society also serving in the local food bank, chamber of commerce, and youth organizations. Groups benefit when volunteers cross-pollenate leadership experience and knowledge.

An example of admirable service is my colleague Ben Graybar at The Gantt Financial Group in Tallahassee. Though he works in a commercial entity, he rigorously harnesses the power of volunteers.

He is a champion for nonprofit organizations. He is past president of civic organizations, a founding board member of the TalTech Alliance, organizer of an annual festival benefitting charities and proponent of leadership programs.

Nobel Prize

Another distinguished volunteer colleague is an officer on the board of the Arizona Restaurant Association. Raveen Arora of Tempe has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

Born in Calcutta, his life experiences and humanitarian efforts are based on his work with Nobel Laureate, Saint Mother Theresa. He promotes the fundamental values of humility, dignity, and respect for humanity.

He is an entrepreneur, mentor, speaker, author, professional accountant, and devotes time to serve others. He is on local and national boards and the recipient of many awards. He is the founder of Think Human. He says he “wakes up hungry and humble each day.”

Exceptional Pathways

Only a few volunteers will be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. There are hundreds who I admire for the paths they have created through their leadership:

  • A board member who makes the decision to run for a statewide elected office.
  • The director who seizes the opportunity to create a charitable foundation.
  • The officer with the vision to clearly restate a mission in just minutes to make lasting improvement in the organization.
  • The director who wears multiple hats, including creation of a national technology company, helping nonprofits.
  • The “student” of leadership who generously shares his knowledge and resources with the rest of the board.
  • The chair who knows there is a job to be done, who does not get distracted with wild ideas and group think.
  • The volunteer who translates their experience into writing a book to mentor future leaders.

Board members are heroes. They raised their hands to lend their time and expertise to advance a cause. “The Hero Effect”explains, “Heroes take responsibility and lead by example.”

“When asked what I enjoy about working in the chamber profession for over 30 years, my answer is always the same — working with leaders in a community who give of their time, money and talents to make change for others. There are no better people in the world than those who step out so others can step up, and more importantly, they are the ones who teach their children and grandchildren to do the same,” explains RaDonna Hessel, CEO at the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce in Texas.


The 2021 National Volunteer Week has come and gone. But saying thank you to volunteers is a year-round practice.

A great example comes from the San Diego County Bar Association. When they adopted guiding principles, they included the value of “Celebration.” While it recognizes the contributions of lawyers, it is also a way to express gratitude for the volunteers who advance the SDCBA mission.

Bev Barney, CIC, CPCU, CEO at the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents summarizes, “I have been blessed throughout my career to have incredible volunteers who have an extraordinary impact on our association. They are passionate, results-driven people with a deep conviction to give back to their communities and simply make the world a better place. We cannot survive without them.”