Shouting it from the rooftops
Volunteers week is the celebration of the fantastic contribution volunteers make across the UK. In doing our part to support this week of celebration, we have shared with you Barnsley’s work through their Love Where you Live campaign and the volunteer stories of two Cities of Service volunteers Keshia Austin and John Turbshaw.
Plymouth’s Inspiring Volunteer Awards is a red carpet event that celebrates all those who give their time to volunteer in and around the city. Plymouth Guilds Volunteer Centre created the awards ceremony 7 years ago and had their first awards night in 1999 in partnership with Plymouth University and Plymouth Herald. The Volunteer Centre's role is to promote volunteering and help create a vibrant, diverse volunteering city which this event showcases.
By creating this event organisations can nominate their volunteers and give them an evening which celebrates their volunteering and recognises what volunteers bring to the city. All volunteers nominated are invited to attend the red carpet, champagne style event.
“We wanted to ensure that we promote the value of volunteering to individuals and the community and we take this opportunity to shout from the rooftops about how good volunteering is for everyone.”
One of the business sponsors said of last year’s event;
‘This event is always a highlight in the year – the chance to hear about the high variety of work undertaken by the hundreds, probably thousands of volunteers, which goes on quietly across our city, day in, day out’
Awards this year include the Turning Point Award, celebrating those who have had to overcome a major obstacle to carry out their volunteering; Sports Volunteer of the Year, highlighting the importance of sport in all walks of life and the huge contribution volunteers make, without which many activities simply wouldn’t happen; and for the first time a Cities of Service award, specifically recognising the volunteer efforts of the Our Plymouth projects.
The Volunteer Centre supports the Cities of Service project so has seen the amazing contribution Cities of Service volunteers have brought to the city. We felt that these volunteers should be recognised by the city as a whole and with Darin Halifax, the City’s Chief Service Officer, being supportive of the awards night in the past, we offered him the opportunity to celebrate the outstanding volunteering that Cities of Service has created. I believe that having a volunteering project at the heart of the City Council shows how as a city we value volunteering and the city’s volunteers.
The types of volunteers that are nominated and their stories are very humbling and diverse. They range from people who have difficult health conditions who volunteer to help others and individuals volunteering in organisations for 20 years, to younger volunteers who are exploring what careers they would like and then make an enormous impact on an individual or community.
Some of the amazing stories this year include a young person who fell into volunteering and, through coaching people with a disability has now helped those individuals to take part in the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles. Nominees also include someone who was suffering from mental health problems and now volunteers as a buddy at the hospital supporting others who are going through what they did.
When I was asked about what advice I would give on setting up a volunteer recognition ceremony, I put together these 5 top tips:
Start planning early! Each year we start organising the event earlier in the year, do not underestimate the time that is needed to organise the event, from booking performers and gaining sponsors, to organisations nominating their volunteers and the judging panel reading all the nominations and choosing the winners, to inviting individuals and ensuring the winners are attending without giving it away!
Make sure people are comfortable: The first year was originally advertised as a strict black tie event which made some volunteers nervous, by the time the event happened the dress code was loosened (we did not want some volunteers not attending because of a dress code!). Every year since we promote it as a smart/casual event.
Recognise teams and individuals: We included the team volunteer award because some organisations felt uncomfortable to single out one of their volunteers.
Be organised! Administration of nominations, invites and attendance is key to the smooth running of the event so we now have our core admin workers working with us on the event.
- Don’t go it alone: Getting the right partners was very important and showing them how they can contribute and why they should be involved. For our awards, Plymouth University provide the venue and cater for the reception and Plymouth Herald grant high profile coverage throughout the nomination stage and profile the lead story following the night of the awards – they even take the last photo of all the winners together at the end of the evening and dash back to the office so the picture is in the paper the next day. We also have the support of local businesses who usually sponsor one of the awards.