I know, this is not the blog you expect to kick off National Volunteer Appreciation Week, but, stay with me for a minute.
It is a known fact that military spouses are the cornerstone of volunteerism in military communities. They volunteer with their family readiness groups, at the family service centers, at the installation clinic/hospital, installation faith-based organizations, with child and youth sports teams, and still find time to volunteer in their civilian communities.
This week, military installations around the world will hold up a big check that calculates the value of a volunteer’s time based on the number of volunteer hours reported. And trust me, that check will have a BIG dollar number on it.
But is volunteerism dying in our military communities?
In NMFA’s 2016 military spouse scholarship application, we asked 3,876 spouses about their volunteerism. 58% said they volunteer in some way. And they spend A LOT of time volunteering. 20% volunteer 51-100 hours and 38% volunteer 11-50 hours, annually.
Of those, 12% volunteer ONLY in their military community while 30% volunteer in both civilian and military communities.
But here’s something interesting, and perhaps even alarming: 68% of military spouses spend more time volunteering in their civilian communities.
Why would that be? Maybe it’s a lack of time due to the operational tempo and multiple deployments. Maybe it’s a lack of certain types of volunteer opportunities. Or maybe military spouses are just tired. For the past four years, our survey has shown this downward trend in volunteerism within military communities.
“Most volunteering hours require a minimum time. That time is usually during working hours,” Meg, a military spouse shared. “When it is not during working hours, the time commitment expectation is such that it deeply cuts into the already precious time with my spouse and child. At the end of the day, the cost in time and money often doesn’t outweigh the personal joy and satisfaction of volunteering for a good cause.”
For the past four years, we have surveyed this group of military spouses about their volunteerism. Year to year not much has changed, but our survey alludes to a decrease in volunteerism in military communities.
Whatever the reason, military communities need to pay attention. If our military communities don’t start asking questions, they’ll lose one of their best assets: military spouses and their gift of time, energy, and talent they provide.
Do you volunteer in your military community? Why or why not?
Posted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director