It’s National Volunteer Week! This week, April 18–24, we’re celebrating and honoring our vibrant volunteer community. (We also want to hear from you about how you acknowledge and appreciate your own volunteers and team members—more on that at the end of this post.)

Any visitor to the NAFSA office (our physical Washington, D.C. office or the virtual one) wouldn’t have to wait long to hear a staff member singing the praises of the leaders and other volunteers that they work with. It’s pretty simple: Without volunteers, the work doesn’t get done. Volunteers are absolutely integral to the resources NAFSA produces for the field, the events we host, our advocacy efforts, and everything else that is outlined in the association’s strategic plan and mission statement.

NAFSA has a staff of around 70 and a volunteer community of more than 1,000. The symbiotic relationship between staff and volunteers is vital and highly productive, and nothing gets done without this partnership. We asked three staff members—you may recognize their names if you’ve volunteered with NAFSA!—who work closely with leaders and other volunteers to talk about why volunteers are important to NAFSA’s work. Here’s what they had to say:

Caroline Donovan White
Senior Director, Education Abroad Services & Volunteer Engagement

"The new NAFSA Strategic Plan says it best: We celebrate innovation and value highly talented volunteer leaders and staff. It is this partnership between leaders and staff that is the best part of my work at NAFSA. Volunteers are central to all that I do. Every event, every resource, every open meeting, every initiative is initiated by, cocreated with, or bolstered by our volunteers. Our volunteers and their willingness to say ‘yes’ is a constant source of inspiration. They say ‘yes’ far more often than ‘no,’ a practice we should all strive to emulate.

I am fortunate to work with volunteers on topics like education abroad, member engagement, leadership development, and member interest groups—these leaders, more than 200 strong, dedicate their time (virtual meetings, writing), talents (content knowledge, presentations), and treasure (membership) to further the profession of international education. I am thankful that the leaders have their employers’ and supervisors’ support as they do this good work.”

Lauren Newton
Associate Director, Professional Learning Services

“None of the programs that I manage would be possible without the dedication of the talented NAFSA volunteers who work with me. The Academy coaches and chairs are the glue that holds that program together. Coaches provide invaluable one-on-one guidance to the Academy trainees as they navigate the program and their careers. The Academy chairs’ opinions, ideas and feedback determine the direction of the program and the quality of the curriculum.

The Management Development Program trainers are essential to the success of that program. I don’t work in the field—they do. Their expertise and real-world experience are what make the training so impactful and relevant to participants.

Our entire organization is only possible because of the contributions of our volunteer leaders. The reason NAFSA programming is so relevant and engaging is because it’s rooted in the real-world experience of volunteers who are active international education practitioners. If we only had NAFSA staff working on our programs, they would not be nearly as meaningful. NAFSA is of the members, by the members, and for the members. The organization’s success is entirely dependent on the engagement of volunteers and their ability to continuously improve the association’s programs.”

Katarzyna (Kasia) Batorski
Senior Director, Conference Program

“NAFSA volunteers are at the core of all that I do at NAFSA. Their experience and collective aspirations shape the annual conference program and help us to design a unique and inspiring program each and every year. They inspire us and push us to think big, innovate, and lead the international education field forward.

We could not curate comprehensive, timely, and relevant content for the annual conference without our volunteers. From members of the Annual Conference Committee, session and poster presenters, and workshop trainers, to session reviewers and poster fair organizers—our entire volunteer community contributes to the annual conference and ensures that the NAFSA annual conference educational program is unmatched.”

We’d love to hear from you! Email [email protected] to share your answers to one or more of the following questions, and we might add your response to this post.

  • If you are a current or former leader or volunteer, what first motivated you to give your time, etc., to become engaged in volunteer opportunities at NAFSA? What do you get out of the experience? What motivates you to stay engaged?
  • In your view, how are volunteers' time, effort, and other contributions integral to the work that NAFSA does?
  • How do you show appreciation for the volunteers/team members you work with on a regular basis? How do you show people that they're valued?
  • What volunteer opportunities do you recommend for those who are looking to get more involved in the NAFSA community and the work of the association?

If you’re a current leader or volunteer, share your leadership story and why you volunteer with NAFSA on your social media channels. Be sure to tag @NAFSA and include the hashtags #NAFSALeader and #NVW.