Volunteerism: A Perspective Volunteerism in the United States has come a long way since the “Minutemen” fought for American independence and community barn raisings were a way of life. Volunteers of all ages have served the needs of the community, state, country, and world. In return, volunteers have gained a number of desired ... Features
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Features  |   October 01, 2003
Volunteerism: A Perspective
Author Notes
  • Gerard L. Caracciolo, is a professor emeritus of Montclair State University. He has served as a volunteer for national, regional, state, and local professional and related organizations for the past 47 years. Currently he is chair of the ASHA and NJSHA Task Forces on “2003: The Year of the Volunteer,” and serves on the Legislative Council and the NJSHA Board of Directors.
    Gerard L. Caracciolo, is a professor emeritus of Montclair State University. He has served as a volunteer for national, regional, state, and local professional and related organizations for the past 47 years. Currently he is chair of the ASHA and NJSHA Task Forces on “2003: The Year of the Volunteer,” and serves on the Legislative Council and the NJSHA Board of Directors.×
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Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / Features
Features   |   October 01, 2003
Volunteerism: A Perspective
The ASHA Leader, October 2003, Vol. 8, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.08182003.1
The ASHA Leader, October 2003, Vol. 8, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.08182003.1
Volunteerism in the United States has come a long way since the “Minutemen” fought for American independence and community barn raisings were a way of life. Volunteers of all ages have served the needs of the community, state, country, and world. In return, volunteers have gained a number of desired and often unimagined benefits. Volunteer energy has become an indispensable resource that has made a difference in the public, private and professional sectors—in fact, in every aspect of our national life.
Nowhere is that more evident than at ASHA. In 2003—ASHA’s Year of the Volunteer—more than 2,200 members volunteered their time and energy to ASHA. The celebration has its roots in the work of ASHA’s Committee on Nominations and Elections (CNE). As a longtime volunteer, my interest in the subject of volunteerism was inspired by two terms of service on the CNE.
The Volunteer Dilemma
At a time when both demand and competition for volunteers is increasing, many organizations have experienced a dwindling volunteer base, causing a critical concern. The CNE first began investigating why members turned down nominations to elected office.
Through the committee’s work of developing position slates, it became apparent that nominee pools for the Executive Board and the Legislative Council—positions which require a significant time commitment—mirrored the national concerns about volunteer participation.
In contrast, the status of the ASHA volunteer force for committees, boards, and task forces was observed to be essentially healthy. Even when appointments were declined, positions were readily filled from a well-stocked pool of volunteers.
At a session presented at the 2001 Convention (which will be repeated at the 2003 Convention next month) the CNE presented a poster session on leadership recruitment. Member feedback revealed that the commitment to governance was more demanding than other volunteer assignments. In addition, members with little volunteer record with ASHA hesitated to consider leadership opportunities. The poster session allowed members to talk with experienced ASHA volunteers about volunteer assignments and leadership roles.
Today many profit and not-for-profit organizations struggle with fiscal, operational, personnel, and service demands; and all continue to issue a resounding call for volunteers. While not entirely exempt from the concern, some national associations considered to be prestigious have retained their volunteer base; however, this has not held true for many state and local associations.
At the 2003 meeting of the Council of State Association Presidents (CSAP), I gathered information on volunteerism as part of a keynote presentation. When asked to describe the status of volunteerism at the state level, the audience testified to the difficulties in recruiting and retaining volunteers, especially for executive positions. This finding is in keeping with the volunteer shortage trend being observed by many smaller organizations.
From the perspective of the volunteer, individuals considering whether to serve in an unpaid position often face difficult choices. Changing age-related interests, expanding demands on families and the mounting pressures on personal and professional lives affect an individual’s choice. Volunteer-dependent organizations can benefit from management practices focused on volunteer needs and satisfaction—in particular, by developing more appealing strategies for recruitment, retention and recognition.
Organizations can no longer depend upon business as usual management practices and ignore the plea for effective volunteer management. A study by United Parcel Service (UPS, 1998) asked volunteers why they decided to stop their service, and most complaints related to volunteer management practices.
Respondents stated that their time and talents were not utilized effectively, that tasks were not clearly defined, and that appreciation was rarely expressed.
Volunteer Satisfaction
The traditional “association-centered” view of volunteerism has focused more on association outcomes than volunteer satisfaction. Although association business is indeed important, organizations that consider volunteer needs along with their own provide a stronger volunteer partnership. Support for this concept comes from Susan Ellis (2002, p. 22), a noted authority on volunteerism, who coined the phrase “exchange volunteering”—when the giver and the receiver both come away with something positive.
Understanding the motivations of volunteers can lead to successful recruitment and retention. When individuals are not fulfilled at their workplace, some pursue volunteer opportunities. Altruism and a concern for a social cause can be motivating factors. In some settings altruism may interface with a different self-satisfying source of motivation. There are a number of theories that relate to the satisfaction of individuals based on their needs and wants (Meneghetti, 1995). A review of the theories reveals four key motivators, in addition to altruism. Hawthorne (2001) also identified motivations that are concerned with reward, relating to others, accomplishment, and power.
Volunteering can aid individuals by building their business or career, satisfying a desire to help others, or to gain recognition and stature (Ellis, 2002) A fulfilling volunteering position can enhance future commitment and promote a more positive sense of self. It has been found that people with a high self-esteem have been satisfied by three motivational needs related to achievement, affiliation and influence (Clemes & Bean, 1989). It appears that the concept of “return value” is a worthy by-product of volunteering. It is especially meaningful for an individual for whom volunteering has provided personal or professional gains not available in other settings or for individuals whose motives are less altruistic and require a return. Ultimately, it matters not what motivated the commitment or the benefits derived—what matters is that a volunteer made a difference.
Volunteer Management
While recruitment is essential to initiating commitment, retention may very well be even more critical to sustain. Effective management of volunteers contributes to retention by matching volunteer interests with association needs; responding to volunteer motivators; providing resources, mentoring, and training; preventing burnout; identifying leadership potential and recognizing contributions and service. Tools such as volunteer satisfaction surveys, attending to informal volunteer feedback (Hawthorne, 2001), and exit interviews can provide indication of whether volunteers sensed achievement, personal growth, socialization, appreciation, and time invested wisely. Since time availability has become more restricted, it may very well be a volunteer’s most precious resource.
In terms of volunteer management, I believe that ASHA’s reputation as a volunteer organization is well deserved. Its management program is very appealing; and is sensitive and responsive to the concerns of volunteers. It makes good use of volunteer time and expertise. The work of committees, boards, and task forces reflects the Association’s mission; offers efficiency to its operations; and provides essential services to members, to individuals with communication disorders and to the public. Further, it is a common practice for ASHA to recognize volunteer efforts with certificates and letters of appreciation to employers, and with other tokens of gratitude.
Volunteer Recognition
Although recognition may not be the primary motivation for volunteering, it is highly valued by volunteers. Recognition in the forms of appreciation and rewards are needed to acknowledge and validate volunteer service, contribution, time, and commitment. In a workplace survey when employees were asked, “What makes it worth coming to work every day?” the most frequent answers were: achievement, recognition, and pay (Huseman & Hatfield, 2002). When the findings are applied to volunteers, there are similarities with employees for “achievement” and “recognition.” For volunteers, “pay” may be the benefits of achievement, affiliation, and recognition.
Recognition announces to others that volunteer service is a much valued resource. The positive reinforcement that results from recognition increases a volunteer’s level of satisfaction and gets an organization more of what it needs, sustained commitment. Expressions of appreciation and recognition need not be costly but they should convey meaning, credibility and value. The vehicle for expressing appreciation or recognition can be as simple as a meaningfully timed “thank you,” a letter of recognition to an employer, a letter of appreciation to a family, public acknowledgment with words or a token.
Recognition is an influential act that has the potential to inspire others to serve and can be an effective tool for recruitment and retention. This thinking motivated the 2001 CNE to submit LC18-2001: To establish a year of recognition for ASHA volunteers. The Legislative Council supported the resolution and proclaimed 2003 as ASHA Year of the Volunteer. A task force was assigned to establish a plan and a schedule of celebratory activities and to oversee implementation of the celebration.
A special logo was created, and a number of appreciation endeavors were held throughout the year at the National Office and at ASHA-related meetings and activities.
The ASHA Convention in November will be the centerpiece of the year-long celebration. The volunteerism theme will echo throughout the convention, and participants will receive ribbons and tokens of appreciation. A drawing will be held, and a group recognition will be held at the convention’s opening session.
To make the celebration truly national, states were invited to pay tribute to their volunteer members, and to submit the name of an outstanding volunteer to be given national recognition by ASHA.
The Future
In today’s volunteer market, organizations must meet the challenges of volunteer interest, priorities, and time. Becoming more mindful of the “volunteer perspective” as an auxiliary to the “association perspective” will enrich the experience for everyone involved.
The challenges facing volunteerism suggest a need to embrace new perspectives and to do business in a different way. Despite the challenges, the outlook is bright. There is no reason to believe that the spirit of American volunteerism will ever be suppressed.
The volunteer spirit continues to be inspired by a number of recent developments. Presidential initiatives and federal programs are bringing increased attention to and participation in humanitarian efforts. The integration of community involvement and service learning into the curriculum promote the value of early experience as preparation for lifetime commitment. The high priority placed upon service to mankind by higher education admissions is a spiraling new incentive for young volunteers.
National and global opportunities for younger and older Americans to combine service with travel is contributing to opening new cultural perspectives. Family volunteering is providing a model for early service training while bringing families together for quality time and a worthwhile cause.
The everyday gifts of human kindness and the extraordinary acts of heroism in recent years exemplify the essence of a spirit that is an enduring American tradition.
Volunteerism: Related Information
Strategies for Change
  • Improve volunteer management practices

  • Appeal to volunteer needs and wants

  • Accommodate generational and lifestyle differences

  • Create a more diverse volunteer force

  • Provide “episodic volunteering” opportunities

  • Provide virtual volunteering opportunities

  • Provide essential resources, training and mentoring

  • Assure achievement from time well-invested

  • Emphasize the importance of praise and appreciation

Challenges Facing Volunteerism
  • Competition for volunteer pool

  • Differences in generational attitudes

  • Changes in family structures and lifestyles

  • Increase in employment demands

States Nominate Outstanding Volunteers

To date, these state associations have selected the following members as outstanding volunteers to receive national recognition by ASHA.

California: Wayne Baker

Georgia: Carol Ann Raymond

Idaho: George Wesley Pilley

Illinois: Mary Anne Hanner

Indiana: Howard W. Harman

Iowa: J. Richard Hood, Jeffrey A. Knox, Dave Krupke

Kentucky: Jodelle F. Deem

Louisiana: Theresa Rodgers

Minnesota: Ann Derr

New Jersey: Amy B. Lazic

New York: Susan J. Brannen

Pennsylvania: Nan Rodgers

Oregon: Lezlie K. Pearce-Hopper

Rhode Island: DeAnne Wellman Owre

Tennessee: Helen Duhon

Texas: Sherry Sancibrian

Washington, DC: Stephanie Scott Marshall

References
Association Management, The Magazine for the Association Profession. (2001, January). The leadership issue: An essential resource for volunteer leaders, 53(1).
Association Management, The Magazine for the Association Profession. (2001, January). The leadership issue: An essential resource for volunteer leaders, 53(1).×
Clemes, H. & Bean, R. (1989). Creating an esteem producing climate for volunteers. In McCurley, S. & Lynch, R. (Eds.), Essential Volunteer Management. VA: Volunteer Readership.
Clemes, H. & Bean, R. (1989). Creating an esteem producing climate for volunteers. In McCurley, S. & Lynch, R. (Eds.), Essential Volunteer Management. VA: Volunteer Readership.×
Ellis, S. (2002). The Volunteer Recruitment Book and Membership Development, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Energize.
Ellis, S. (2002). The Volunteer Recruitment Book and Membership Development, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Energize.×
Hawthorne, N. (2001, December). Four typical basic motivators of volunteers. Volunteer Management Review.
Hawthorne, N. (2001, December). Four typical basic motivators of volunteers. Volunteer Management Review.×
Huseman, D. & Hatfield, J. (2002). After all I’ve done. In Levin, M. (Ed.), The Gift of Leadership: How to Relight the Volunteer Spirit in the 21st Century. Columbia, MD: B.A.I., Inc.
Huseman, D. & Hatfield, J. (2002). After all I’ve done. In Levin, M. (Ed.), The Gift of Leadership: How to Relight the Volunteer Spirit in the 21st Century. Columbia, MD: B.A.I., Inc.×
Meneghetti, M. M. (1995). Motivating people to volunteer their service. In Connors, D.T. (Ed.), The Volunteer Management Handbook. NewYork: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Meneghetti, M. M. (1995). Motivating people to volunteer their service. In Connors, D.T. (Ed.), The Volunteer Management Handbook. NewYork: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.×
United Parcel Post. (1998). Managing volunteers: a report from UPS. www.community.ups.com.
United Parcel Post. (1998). Managing volunteers: a report from UPS. www.community.ups.com.×
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October 2003
Volume 8, Issue 18