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Dan Rene

April 28, 2017

Volunteer Week

One Post-Election Outcome Everyone Can Agree On: Volunteerism Is on the Rise and That’s a Good Thing

If you watch any news or consume any media, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that America is deeply divided. Every day brings a new wave of negative media, critical tweets, and heavy aspersions cast from both sides of the political aisle. But it’s not all bad news.

This week marks Volunteer Week in the United States, and one post-election silver lining is that it seems the next generation has seen the power of volunteerism and older Americans have remembered the value of giving back. This fits perfectly with Volunteer Week’s goals of promoting volunteerism and showing appreciation for the work and dedicate of those who give their time or resources to causes they believe in.

As we inch closer to the 100th day of the Trump presidency, this can be seen most readily in the unprecedented surge in donations to non-profits after Donald Trump’s stunning upset in the 2016 election. Those who were upset with Secretary Clinton’s defeat channeled their despair into helping causes they were passionate about.

Government affairs and grassroots professionals can attest to the importance of volunteers. In our day to day lives, we are charged with turning out people to town halls, finding constituents to sign letters to the editor, and mobilizing the public to contact their legislators. In short, when looking to influence policy decisions, volunteerism plays a big part.

Ironically, the Government Affairs Industry Network (GAIN), an organization representing various industries and causes in Washington, state capitols, and other power centers, is also made up of all volunteers.

“Giving back is something that we hear regularly in our conversations with successful government affairs professionals. We realize the important role that volunteers play in shaping policy and finding solutions, and we encourage all of our members to stay involved,” said Andrew Fullerton Chair of GAIN and Government Relations Manager at National Kidney Foundation.

Grace Boatright who is the Mentor Chair of GAIN and Director of Engagement for Unfold added, “Understanding volunteerism is in any government affairs professional’s DNA – it’s what makes the difference for successful organizations.

Much was written about the monetary donations made to organizations and causes that supporters felt would be under siege in the Trump Administration. Even more was written about the thousands of people who made their political awareness and involvement heard loud and clear on the day of the post-inauguration women’s march on Washington.

But less coverage was devoted to places like the ACLU in Denver, where nearly 1,000 people signed up to volunteer their time between Election Day and the end of January. In one community, even a big one like Denver, a thousand people can make a major difference. But in smaller communities across the nation, a single person spending a single hour improving their community also makes a sizable impact.

Studies show that volunteerism not only benefits the people or organizations being helped, but they also allow volunteers to reap both psychological and physical benefits, including an increased sense of belonging and lower risk of Alzheimer’s and depression. In other words, we can all benefit from a little more time spent in the service of others.

Organizations, too, can capitalize on this trend and use it to achieve their objectives. With an outpouring of people looking to make a difference, the audience is ripe for finding meaningful outlets and encouraging ordinary people to jump in.

Whether you’re on the right, the left, or somewhere in between, there is always work to be done. There is always a well-meaning organization that needs help. And there is always an opportunity to give back. Volunteer week is thus a reminder of the opportunities that exist and a celebration of the extraordinary people who quietly give back every day.

We shouldn’t have to wait until an election doesn’t go our way to seize these opportunities. That’s what Volunteer Week is all about.

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Posted by: Dan Rene

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