Four Questions to Ask Before You Volunteer

By Christina L. Jumper, Volunteer Services Director

Volunteers Welcome Sign

Military families serve our country with pride, honor, and quiet dedication. The National Military Family Association is the leading nonprofit organization committed to strengthening and protecting the families of the men and women currently serving, retired, wounded or fallen. We provide families of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and NOAA with information, work to get them the benefits they deserve, and offer programs that improve their lives. Our 40 years of service and accomplishments have made us a trusted resource for military families and the Nation's leaders.

If you’re reading this, you are thinking about volunteering with the National Military Family Association. Thank you for wanting to support our service to military families! We welcome new volunteers and want to make sure that we are the best fit as an organization for your volunteer time, talents, and desire to serve. To help you find out if volunteering with us is the best way for you to support military families, here are four questions we’d like you to consider before sending in an application. We hope these questions will help you to decide what sort of volunteer opportunity is best for your volunteer goals and skills. There is no one size fits all in volunteering and not every opportunity is the best fit for each person.

1. Do I have a military connection?

95% of our Volunteers have a personal family connection to the military. They are spouses and former spouses of active or retired service members, retired service members, and parents of service members from all Services and components. The remaining 5%, our citizen Volunteers, have a professional connection to military families.

We ask this question because we’ve learned if our potential volunteers do not have a personal or professional connection with a military community; the learning curve associated with understanding the military lifestyle can be overwhelming.

Even if you don’t currently have a connection with the military that would make volunteering with us a good fit, you can still find other simple ways to support military families in your community. Our community toolkit, Finding Common Ground: A Toolkit for Communities Supporting Military Families suggests easily-achievable ideas and useful resources to guide anyone who wants to support military families, but doesn’t know where to start. The toolkit includes specific hints for members of a community to offer their support to military families. Some of the community members detailed in the kit include- Friends and Family, Educators, Employers, and Health Care Providers. Go first to the card that most fits your relationship to military families and look for ideas and resources that can start conversations and stimulate action. Then, take some time to explore the other toolkit links. Supporting military families doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming. Just remembering to include military families in your daily work and community activities is a start.

2. Am I interested in a one time or short-term volunteer opportunity?

Volunteers with our Association expand the Association’s resources by providing a link between local military communities or families and people who can make important changes. We focus on supporting military families by providing information, working to get them the benefits they deserve, and offering programs that improve their lives. Our Association Volunteers provide outreach to military families in their community, write for our Association’s publications, conduct research to collect vital information, and so much more!

Our Association does not coordinate local service projects or provide a means to do direct service such as, cooking a meal, babysitting, or home repair. If you want to help military families in this way, connect with national organizations with local chapters who arrange community volunteer service opportunities, such as Operation Homefront, the USO, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars(VFW), or your own State’s Volunteer Office.

Looking within your own community to find ways to help military families requires awareness. Think about your current community networks such as school, work, or faith-based organizations to find a way to support military families. Review our toolkit for ideas.

3. Do my skills and interest match the volunteer opportunities that you offer?

Our volunteer opportunities start with community outreach. Do you like to share information? Do you have a profession that works with military families or children, such as a teacher? Before applying to be a Volunteer, read what our Volunteer Corps does on behalf of military families and the Association. Our Volunteer Corps Accomplishments will help you gain a better understanding of what our Volunteers do. Then, take a moment to read the Volunteer Opportunities to see what we offer.

4. Does the Association have requirements and provide training?

YES! We want you to be successful in your volunteerism and training is a big part of that. We require introductory training of all new Volunteers and at least one additional online, phone, or face-to-face training within that same calendar year. Based on your location, you work with a Regional Coordinator who personally oversees your training and mentors you through the process. Most training is available through our online webinars which are accessible 24/7. We offer quarterly conference calls on specific subjects, and your Coordinator can help tailor training to meet your individual needs.

Our Volunteers enter into an agreement to volunteer for one year. The time you spend during that year is flexible. One month you might volunteer 5-10 hours and another month maybe 10-15 hours.

We want you to be a successful Volunteer and for you to enjoy working with military families. Our Association was founded by Volunteers, is led by a board of Volunteers, and understands the significant impact Volunteers make.

Your answers to these four questions should help you decide if you believe becoming a Volunteer for the National Military Family Association sounds like a good fit for you. If the answer is ‘YES,’ please complete the application and we will contact you soon!

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Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.

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