Is Volunteerism Dying in our Military Community?

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.

4-11 Volunteerism Horizontal Graphic

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.

4-11 Volunteerism PINTEREST

“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?

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer & Community Outreach Director


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  1. 1
    Kimberly Mumford

    This is a good article on volunteering in the military communities. I’m a Navy Spouse (11 yrs.) and before marrying my sailor I did volunteer work for many organizations in my community. Since marrying my husband and moving every 3 years, I’ve had more opportunity for Military and community volunteer work. You just have to make time in your busy schedule to volunteer; if it’s an organization that you want to help. I volunteered at many organizations while stationed on the Yokosuka, Japan Naval Base and the organization appreciated my help. I did volunteer work once a month for USO – I baked homemade cupcakes, cookies, cakes and dessert for the single sailors, I baked for the USS Shiloh ship
    ( my husband’s ship) for all the sailors when they returned from deployments or just when I want to bring them some homemade treats, I did volunteer work for Navy Relief & Morale organization, many other organizations on the base and Ikebana International Kamakura Chapter- I did photography and P.R. for their Monthly events, and the most volunteer work that I did was Nov-Dec for each year- by portraying Mrs. Claus for the children on the base. My mother designed my costume and I brought Mrs. Claus to life by doing Mrs. Claus Story hour the past 29 years – I read the classic Christmas books, sing Christmas carols as the children ring the bells, and talk to the children about the North Pole and take last minute request for their Christmas list. I did volunteer work as Mrs. Claus for the elementary schools,
    youth centers, daycares, Post office, Fun Runs with the Marines- Toys-for-Tots, The 7th Fleet Band Christmas concert, USO Cookie caravan, libraries on the 3 bases, the Children’s Christmas parties for the Shore and Ship commands throughout the base, and tree lightings. I worked at the NEX and MWR for Christmas events as Mrs. Claus and they were company paid events. Also did volunteer work on the Ikego and Negishi base as Mrs. Claus.
    I made time to volunteer as Mrs. Claus for the Japanese children at orphanages, foster care centers and schools. The true meaning of Christmas is giving to others and that is why I enjoy portraying Mrs. Claus in all the communities that I have lived since I was 15 years old. This year will be my 30th anniversary as portraying Mrs. Claus for the children in the community. I have been able to balance my time with holding a job- Kimmy’s Sweet Delights, My Baking Business in Japan and Marketing jobs, family time, and volunteer work. It can be done; if you are interested in helping the organization.

  2. 2

    An overabundance of regulations often makes it difficult to volunteer on post. When too much is “required”, then volunteers are no longer free to give from the heart. Automation and a unionized civilian employee workforce have also squeezed out a number of roles once held by volunteers.

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