What a Single Day Can Do


By Rob Bonesteel, Director of the Volunteer Services Bureau with The Salvation Army Central Territory

Time and again, we hear from volunteers who are surprised at the extent of what The Salvation Army does because it far exceeds their personal experiences of donating to a kettle or shopping in a thrift store. For most of these volunteers it only required them to walk through our doors and meet an employee, officer, or a fellow volunteer who took a moment to tell them about who we are. Often from those kinds of encounters The Salvation Army has made another friend who is now more inclined to support what we do through donations of time, money, and goods.

With more and more organizations fighting for the attention of community residents and with individuals more frugal with the time they give, especially to those that they do not know, it is not surprising that we hear as frequently the concerns expressed by Salvation Army units that are struggling to find people to fill traditional volunteer opportunities.

Though there are number of reasons for this, one key factor is that the opportunities we ask our communities to help us with demand a level of commitment greater that the relationships we have with the individuals in those communities. With very little introduction, we want people to volunteer on a regular basis and we hope that those that do will make it a lifelong commitment. To achieve that hope today, it is necessary for us to adopt new strategies that provide ways for people to get to know The Salvation Army.

If many people are like the volunteers we hear from, once we offer a meaningful introduction to community members about The Salvation, we can expect that people will be more inclined to support the Army at even greater levels. The key is providing an opportunity that does not demand much time of individuals, has a purpose that fulfills our mission, and allows Salvation Army personnel (officers, employees, and/or volunteers) to make personal connections with those volunteers that serve. One way The Salvation Army can do this is through participating in any number of Days of Service throughout the year.

With volunteering becoming a central value in American culture, a number of organizations sponsor specific days of service to bring communities together. There are approximately 9 major Days of Service in the United States spread across the year with a handful of others which are newly emerging. The motivations for each of these days is different but the central purpose is the same, provide a way for people to come together to improve the communities they live in. With few exceptions, these days of service are structured so that projects offered by community organizations can be accomplished in a single day. Such days have become extremely popular because it allows very busy people an opportunity to volunteer without having to make any long-term commitments. For organizations, it provides an opportunity to accomplish much-needed projects that might not otherwise get done.

For The Salvation Army, it provides a hands-on experience that allows community members to be exposed to the Army in a new way outside the hecticness of Christmas. From these additional connection points the message of what we do can be shared with little distraction to those who have now had a meaningful first hand volunteer opportunity. With the knowledge gained through their volunteer service and the relationships made with Salvation Army personnel, these individuals will be more inclined to provide future support because they now have a better understanding of what we do and why we do it.

To be successful in having such days there are a handful of things that need to be considered:

  1. Have a point person to oversee the project. Having a single point of contact that can focus on the project will ensure greater levels of success.
  2. Find and plan a project that needs to get done. It takes time to put projects together and identifying and planning them in advance will lead to greater success in attracting the community.
  3. Make the project meaningful. Even if it is cleaning, yard work, or some other beautification project; create ways for volunteers to understand how what they are doing impacts the mission and improves the community
  4. Get others at the corps involved to help on the day of the event so that volunteers have multiple points of contact with the Army
  5. Make it fun. Though the project may be hard work, incorporate an orientation/tour, food, or other components to make the event memorable and positive.
  6. Follow up with volunteers after the project to thank them and invite them to learn more about the Army.

Days of Service can be a lot of work, but the return on that work results in greater community awareness of The Salvation Army, much needed projects get accomplished, and new Army friends are made. From these new relationships, a cultivation strategy can be implemented to build long lasting relationships with these new friends who will be more inclined to help us with our other volunteer needs.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
With “Make it a day ON… Not a day off!” as its slogan, this commemoration is designed to keep Dr. King’s legacy of service to others alive in communities across the country.  The day of service is scheduled on his nationally recognized birthday holiday.


Random Acts of Kindness
Random Acts of Kindess Week® is dedicated to celebrating the little things we do for others.

Corporate Philanthropy Day

Building awareness of corporate-community partnerships and inspiring businesses to engage further in philanthropy.


Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning
An official holiday in six states and dozens of cities and counties throughout the nation, this day honors the life, work, and values of activist Cesar E. Chavez. More information about Cesar Chavez can be found at http://chavezfoundation.org/.


Global Youth Service Day

Occurs each year (usually immediately preceding National Volunteer Week) and celebrates the positive contributions that millions of young people are making in their communities. Major sponsors are Youth Service America and Parade magazine.

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week, always held in the third week of April unless the spring religious holidays coincide, has been celebrated annually since the 1970s, though its visibility has been reduced by the new “Seasons of Service” calendar of events throughout the year. It is now sponsored by the Points of Light Institute and run by its HandsOn Network.


Join Hands Day

A nationwide volunteer day (sponsored by America’s Fraternal Benefit Societies) to bring young people together with adults to create new and better relationships by working as a team within their own neighborhoods.


National Day of Service and Remembrance
9/11 Day is the non-profit movement to observe September 11 every year as a day of charitable service and doing good deeds. This observance was created soon after 9/11 to provide a positive way to forever remember and pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world.


Make A Difference Day  

For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Make A Difference Day is a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Millions of volunteers from around the world will unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.


I’ll Fight Day

I’ll Fight Day is a Salvation Army created day of service. It is a youth servant evangelism day that will take place all across the world. I’ll Fight Day is a way for you to share the Gospel through practical acts of kindness. This event is a local, youth-led initiative where teens and their friends can decide how they want to serve others in your community.


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