CAMPAIGN: VE week champions England’s helpers

Volunteers’ Week is the annual celebration of the UK’s millions of volunteers and is co-ordinated in England by Volunteering England (VE). The week gives charities and other organisations from the public and private sectors the opportunity to thank their volunteers.

Volunteers’ Week: an annual celebration of England's volunteers
Volunteers’ Week: an annual celebration of England's volunteers

Campaign: Volunteers’ Week 2007
Client: Volunteering England
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: March-June 2007
Budget: Less than £10,000

Volunteers’ Week 2007 was the 23rd annual event, with the theme of ‘recognise, reward and recruit’. A secondary theme was ‘risk’, with the strapline ‘take a risk for Volunteers’ Week’.

The website was relaunched, encouraging participants to register their events, vote in a poll and enter a photography competition.


To highlight the impact of England’s 22 million volunteers and raise awareness of their contribution to local communities. To help Volunteer Centres and volunteer-involving organisations achieve media coverage by using web resources.

Strategy and plan
The target audience was existing volunteers in the voluntary, public and private sector, potential volunteers from the general public and MPs. VE does not work directly with volunteers, so potential partners were approached to provide case studies for the ‘risk’ story. These included: Breast Cancer Care, Samaritans, Royal British Legion, RSPB and BTCV.

All UK MPs were invited to make contact with their local Volunteer Centre to attend an event, or attend a photocall with the local press.

Volunteer-involving organisations were sent a three-weekly Volunteers’ Week e-newsletter in the run-up to the week, signposting them to the website in order to help them generate their own coverage.

Volunteer Information Points (stand-alone terminals in rural areas providing volunteering information and linking to Volunteer Centres) had a homepage link to the Volunteers’ Week website, resulting in 1,500 referrals.

June’s edition of Volunteering, VE’s members’ only magazine, was predominantly focused on Volunteers’ Week, which carried the ‘risk’ story, the results of the photography competition as well as an interview with Alun Michael MP. Michael also wrote about Volunteers’ Week for The House magazine.

Measurement and evaluation
Stories ran throughout May and June, with articles appearing each day in Society Guardian online and on BBC London online. On 1 June, there were VE staff and trustee appearances on BBC Breakfast and Sky News. There were also several VE appearances on local BBC and community radio.

Regional coverage of the week increased by 19 per cent over the previous year, and online coverage came to more than 100 cuttings.

The Volunteers’ Week website received a total of 40,409 visits, a huge increase from the 27,856 of the previous year. Sixty per cent of organisations surveyed achieved media coverage, and 30 articles mentioned Volunteering England as co-ordinator of Volunteers’ Week.

Results from a post-Volunteers’ Week survey found that 91 per cent of participants said they would celebrate Volunteers’ Week the following year.


Helen Ashley (l), director, Upward Curve: When you are running an annual event such as Volunteers’ Week for the 23rd time, the big challenges are keeping ideas fresh and sustaining media interest.

Added to this, the primary aim of the campaign was to ‘reward and recognise the contribution of existing volunteers’. This meant it was always going to be challenging to measure the effectiveness of the campaign.

Asking MPs – a key target audience – to get involved in the week by attending an event was a good idea. It would have been even stronger if MPs had been asked to volunteer for an activity, which could have provided a great photo story.

And it was a good move to have media materials on the website to help organisations maximise coverage. Next year maybe organisations could register online and be sent media tools directly to make it even easier.

It would have been nice to see more involvement from radio stations, which are great for promoting initiatives such as this. Perhaps syndicated radio packages could have been put together and stations could have focused on a different local volunteer and volunteering opportunity each day.

In terms of evaluation it would have been useful to have a breakdown of which coverage was generated by Volunteering England and which coverage was generated by volunteering organisations.

Overall though, the campaign did well in communicating with volunteer groups and providing them with tools to help achieve coverage.

The organisation can build on this next year and develop a media strategy to target a wider range of media with perhaps more of a focus on regional and business media.

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