Our History


How it Began

It all started in the fall of 1968, when Mrs. Egmont Frankel of Toronto, Canada, President of the Auxiliary of the Princess Margaret Hospital and Lodge, invited 26 women from 11 nations to meet for one week to learn and share in the work volunteers can do in the field of cancer.  Two of the delegates were from the UCLA Center for Health Sciences…Mrs. Burton Clemens (Virginia), Chairman of Volunteers, and Mrs. George F. Wasson, Jr. (Eleanor), Coordinator, Volunteer Services.” Virginia and Eleanor “agreed that the experiences of sharing and exchange, of coming together with mutual interests and concerns with women from different parts of the world were among the most valuable each had ever had.  This feeling was realized to such a degree that at the last meeting in Toronto, [they] invited the delegates to come to Los Angeles in 1970 for a similar conference.”  On their return home, they began to meet with relevant community leaders to share their experience and their idea for an international conference. The seeds had been planted.

The first

World Volunteer Conference

On February 27, 1969, the first organizing meeting was held to make plans for an international volunteer conference that would “encompass all phases of volunteer activities in health, welfare, education, recreation and culture.” The date of October 18, 1970 was chosen for the opening of the conference.  At the meeting, Ruth Powlison suggested the conference theme of “Volunteering – The Bridge of Understanding.”  The idea was inspired by a ceramic tile wall entitled “Bridge of Understanding,” designed by artist Florinda Leighton in the International Lounge of the Commons at the University of California Riverside.  This marked the beginning of the biennial IAVE World Volunteer Conference.

50 years later

IAVE Today

Today, IAVE serves as the connective tissue to a global network of volunteer leaders, NGOs, businesses and national leadership organizations, that share a belief in the power of volunteering. IAVE’s mission is to enable leaders of volunteering worldwide to stand in solidarity with one another to promote, support and celebrate volunteering in all of the many ways it happens throughout the world. Within the past 50 years, IAVE has brought together thousands of leaders in volunteering, through their shared passion and belief in the importance of volunteering for sustainable development. Click here to learn more about what IAVE has grown to become.

Timeline of

IAVE World Volunteer Conferences

Since the first world conference in 1970 in Los Angeles, IAVE has convened more than 25 world conferences across the globe. In 2024, we will return to South Korea for the 27th IAVE World Volunteer Conference in Busan.