VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism
Getting the Commanders Attention for Your Volunteer Program
Just like the CEOs of major corporations, base and post commanders are so busy with day-to-day operations that it might be difficult for them to give as much attention to service programs, such as your volunteer program, as they might like. Volunteer programs on military installations have well-deserved reputations for being well-run, with minimal conflicts or problems but, those very attributes may mean that your program is not catching the eye of your commander as much as youd like.
A few simple, and more importantly, little-to-no-cost suggestions, might help:
It is difficult to market and personalize a program when you have no budget to do it with; but, then, isnt that one of the pre-requisite skills of a volunteer program manager?
Establishing a Cooperative Environment for Volunteers in a Military Organization
It is not unusual to have a blurring of the distinction between volunteers and paid employees, regardless of the location of the work environment. This can present a number of problems for agencies. An us and them dynamic can occur, creating the danger of the agency losing volunteer staff. Military organizations utilizing volunteers as a regular part of their daily workings are certainly not immune to problems involving staff/volunteer working relationships.
Uniformed military members and civilian employees may not have previously been in a work environment that relied on volunteers. There may be a propensity to treat the volunteer as a paid employee, as well as a lack of understanding or appreciation for why the volunteer is there. Draw downs, outsourcing and funding cuts can put military service organizations in the same position as their non-government brethren not able to keep pace with need unless they themselves seek some volunteer help. That relatively new and growing phenomenon requires adjustments to the way we think about who constitutes staff.
Volunteers may come to the agency with specialized training or experience that paid staff members do not have. Paid staff may not understand why volunteers are willing to do just that volunteer versus looking for a paying job. Still, given the itinerant nature of the military lifestyle, most active duty members and civilian employees fully understand how difficult it is to find a paying job in a new community, particularly when you can provide the employer no guarantee for how long youll stay.
If you direct a military organization that is new to the inclusion of volunteers, it is important for you, your staff members, and your incoming volunteers to be clear about Federal laws and standards for the use of volunteer manpower. For example, you cannot ask a volunteer to assume work activities in a position that is temporarily vacant and awaiting a new paid employee. Your volunteer may be seeking a pathway to paid work, but he/she needs to be aware that their service will not make it easier to obtain a job with the Federal government, given that positions are filled through a competitive process.
We all recognize that orientation processes are critical for any new staff member, volunteer or paid. Volunteers in a military organization may not completely understand the lines of authority. Just as they need to identify those from whom they are to take directions, within the agreed parameters of their tasks, the organizations leadership needs to understand clearly that volunteers are just that volunteers and not in the same sense as our all volunteer military members.
Volunteers on a military installation may be placed in an agency that is involved in an activity that could generate intellectual property. Intellectual property can be written material, artistic work, data, even research. If you have any questions about whether your organization should address this issue with volunteers, contact your base legal office.
Confidentiality is a consideration in many locations using volunteers, and any orientation should include information about maintaining it. In a military agency or program it might also be prudent to limit the volunteers potential exposure to confidential or sensitive information. Again, check with your base legal office to see if you need a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement signed.
Any perceived inequalities or misconceived expectations could create a variety of management problems that can be costly to your program, particularly in terms of morale. Even without formal, specialized training, your staff can be encouraged to recognize and support the motivation that draws people to volunteering, and your volunteers can view unpaid government work as an opportunity to further enhance their skills, make a lasting contribution, and develop knowledge in an area removed from their previous experience.
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