I’m going to make a bold statement -- one that I believe to be accurate. Our military would not run without volunteers. Period.
If you’re not sure you agree I would like to you make your way to your nearest installation. Visit the hospital, those greeters -- volunteers. The people behind the pharmacy counter at the refill pharmacy -- volunteer. The man who taught your Army Community Services class -- yes, a volunteer. The woman who leads your Family Readiness Group -- also a volunteer.
According to the Blue Star Families’ Military Family Lifestyle Survey 2010 (3,634military families surveyed), 68 percent of respondents had volunteered in the last year. A direct comparison with civilian volunteers isn’t possible given the difference in definitions and populations, but the Corporation for National and Community Service indicated that in 2009 the national volunteer rate was just under 27 percent. The majority of military-affiliated volunteers carve out less than ten hours a month in any one category of donated time (to military non-profits or church, for example). However, 9 percent of the respondents who declared hours put in more than thirty hours per month—equivalent to a part-time job.
Folks, that’s some serious free people power (which translates to money saved) for our military. The question is – why do we do it? With so many people volunteering in so many ways, the individual reasons for volunteering are infinite.
Just recently I had a friend of a friend Facebook message me with a common concern of military spouses – meeting new people. She had recently relocated and was at an installation where she knew no one. Desperate to “date” for some friendships she reached out to me for advice on where to “score a few acquaintances” she may be able to turn into lifelong friendships. In my fourteen years of experience as a military spouse I have had the most luck finding friendships and “like minded’ individuals by volunteering.
- Meeting new people: What I considered my best form of payment for the time given. Of course there are many other reasons besides forming friendships and hopefully you can find a few – some applicable to all volunteering and some military related only - reasons below that fit into your definition of why you do or would want to volunteer.
- You’re passionate about the cause: It could be that you want to empower military families through teaching a course on a certain topic. Maybe you just lost a loved one from a disease and want to educate or keep others from suffering the same fate. You could have a passion for animals, fitness, etc.
- Benefit your professional resume and gain personal reference: Many employers and schools look favorably on volunteer experience and devotion to duty. You can meet professionals in the field you wish to work that will give you valuable references when it comes to employment time. Plus, you can test out a career and see if it’s a good fit for you.
- Use your existing skills in a productive way and develop new skills: Are you a good organizer of files but you desire to learn more about Microsoft Office? Volunteering in an office and showing some desire to learn can gain you new skills while using the ones you already possess in a productive manner.
- Find a purpose and feel involved: There is nothing like feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
- Provide people power/resources to a cause: Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on organizational/cause related improvements. The estimated value of a volunteer's time in 2011 is $21.79 per hour.
- Free admission and benefits: Volunteering at events like concerts and family fairs typically yield free admission for yourself and your family members. Who doesn’t like to save money?
- Trips and tours: Volunteering on the installation can allow you to be chosen for all expense paid trips to represent our military community.
- Make a difference: Every person, every hour, every smile…counts!
- Your very own special reason: Remember that the motivations you have to select the place to offer your services may not be the reasons why you stay. Once you're on the volunteer job, you will continue to serve as long as you feel that your efforts are accomplishing something, that your talents are appreciated, you love the people, and that you have a positive impact on that organization.