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United Way Blog

Giving Voice to Volunteering on a Global Stage

Nearly 1,800 United Ways around the world fight for every individual to succeed and for entire communities to thrive. Our work is fueled by the passion of 2.8 million volunteers and 9.8 million donors who give their time, their money and their voice to improve the lives of others.

It is an honor to lead volunteer engagement at United Way Worldwide, in part because my colleagues at other organizations are as committed as we are to recognizing and maximizing the caring power of volunteers. For example, Philip Goodwin, CEO of VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and I co-chair the Volunteer Groups Alliance (VGA), a coalition of organizations working with volunteers to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). VGA shines a light on the important role volunteers play at local, regional and national levels and in United Nations (UN) processes.

Last year, VGA worked with UN Volunteers to promote and launch the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report at an event attended by thought leaders and heads of government representatives from across the globe. More recently, VGA played a prominent role at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. More than 60 representatives of civil society organizations and Member State representatives attended our side event to learn about this year’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) process and how volunteers increase local ownership of the sustainable development agenda and ensure accountability.

Why do we do this? Because volunteering thrives when it is supported politically and financially with concrete legislation, policies and partnerships and when it is measured, recognized and encouraged. 

VNRs help countries learn from each other as we all strive to achieve the Goals. This year, 21 of 47 countries noted the contributions of volunteers in their VNRs. It’s a great start, but we want to do more.

At public convenings and in conversations at the HLPF, my colleagues and I advocated for all countries to:  1) formally recognize the contribution of volunteering to the implementation of the SDGs in their VNRs; 2) ensure that Volunteer Groups are fully recognized and supported in the national plans and strategies for implementing the 2030 Agenda; 3) support the participation of non-governmental actors in the SDG follow-up and review processes; and 4) ensure that the views of community members, including the most marginalized people and the volunteers who work closest to them, are represented in the SDG process.

More than a billion active citizens around the world give their time to volunteer every year. United Way stands with them and like-minded organizations who also champion their work.