American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps Consortium Building and Coordinating Volunteer Capacity to Serve Veterans, Military Servicemembers and Their Families Survey of Veterans in National Service with American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps March 2012 Purpose — Determine what attracted current ALA Call to Service Corps members who are veterans into veteran-focused national and community service in order to customize service opportunity outreach to veterans. Method — The survey was conducted in March 2012, and sent by email attachment to all ALA Call to Service Corps members in active service that had served in the military. The survey consisted of open-ended questions about AmeriCorps/national service specifically and volunteer service generally. Responses Received — Four respondents of six eligible respondents (four AmeriCorps VISTA members and two AmeriCorps National members; three Army, one Navy, one Air Force and one Coast Guard). Response rate: 66 percent. Respondents are coded i, ii, iii and iv. Responses are as the respondents wrote them, with some grammatical editing. Findings — Serving through AmeriCorps/National Service 1. What was your primary reason for deciding to join AmeriCorps/national service? i. Wanted to serve something greater then myself. ii. Wanted to gain civilian experience. iii. My passion to assist my fellow military colleagues with the support they need to be successful. iv. Wanted to serve my country again. 2. Did you consider other volunteer opportunities before choosing AmeriCorps? If so, what were they? i. Was strongly interested in Mission Continues [Fellowship Program] but [I wanted something longer than] the 26 week program at the time without possible extension. The stipend is right on mark and they only require 20 hours a week. ii. No, I did not. iii. A historical group and basic community services. Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 2 iv. No. When I learned about AmeriCorps, I knew I wanted to do it. 3. Were you primarily motivated to join because you wanted to serve the military community specifically or did you join for another reason? a. If you joined to serve the military community: What did you want to achieve through serving the community? i. I have an interest in nonprofits after being a case manager at the Red Cross handling programs very similar to my sponsor organization’s efforts. My hope is that I could make a difference. ii. Yes — to gain current knowledge and use it to assist the military community. iii. I wanted to make it easier for veterans to make the transition from service to academia. b. If you joined for another reason: What reason was that? Please elaborate. i. I waited a year on unemployment while searching for an opportunity with a nonprofit focused on support of active duty and veterans and their families. Unemployment paid more than AmeriCorps. ii. I joined to garner experience in the civilian sector. 4. What attracted you to your ALA C2SC position? Did you have any reservations about joining? If so, what were they and what do you think of them now? i. The unknown stipend was a big issue and, to be honest, I regret it at this point because of the taxes being held. Second, the application and hiring process was confusing and very unclear at points. But, to answer the question, the ad from my sponsor organization on Craigslist for the position was what attracted me. ii. My VA counselor informed me about the organization and the positions. No, I had no reservation. iii. The mission. No reservations. iv. I was attracted to my ALA C2SC position for the opportunity to work within the veterans’ space. I had reservations about living in my service area with so little money. I still think my service area is far too expensive for a VISTA allowance. 5. Where there any particular benefits of AmeriCorps service that motivated you to join (living stipend, education award, non-competitive status, etc.)? i. No, as the stipend was unknown to me when I applied. AmeriCorps was just a vessel to get into my sponsor organization. ii. The education was a big favor for me because I thought I could use it to assist my son. Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 3 iii. None. iv. All of the benefits helped with the decision to join but none were a motivating factor. I knew I wanted to do this before I learned about the benefits. They just made the decision to join easier. 6. Has participation in AmeriCorps/national service made a difference in your life? If so, please explain. i. Financial loss. ii. Participating in AmeriCorps/national service has made a tremendous difference in my life. It has given me the opportunity to learn the civilian side of HR in a less threatening way. It’s similar to on-the-job training. Not having the experience to match up with my education left me at a great disadvantage with my peers. iii. Too early to tell, but my first impressions are positive. iv. Yes it has. It has been a great opportunity to learn about volunteer service, and the NGO community as a whole. 7. Do you consider your AmeriCorps experience to be valuable work experience that you would include on a resume? Why or why not? i. Unsure at this point. I will state that I brought more to the table than AmeriCorps did and my sponsor organization needed someone like myself; but they also need a culture change. ii. I would most definitely include my experience in my future resume. I have gained a plethora of information and I now have a wealth of knowledge I gained from my current organization. iii. Yes, because of the excellent and current training, I would use it in a resume. iv. Yes I do. It shows my dedication to a project/cause. 8. What specific advice would you give for recruiting veterans into AmeriCorps/national service? i. Focus on retired [veterans] as it appears that most nonprofits are not geared for training others and need experienced folk to fill slots. Recently released military [servicemembers] could be players, but the mindset of most nonprofits is counter [to] the “get-it-done” attitude the members lived while on active duty. ii. Come with an open mind and be enthusiastic about gaining a wealth of experience. This is experience you can use to boost your confidence. iii. Use other veterans when feasible. iv. Don’t focus on the benefits package. Veterans are motivated by the opportunity to create positive change in their world. Stick to the message when recruiting them — it will have more traction. Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 4 Volunteering through Community Service 1. Did you feel like you were ready to begin volunteering in your community immediately after you separated from the military or was there a transitional period? If there was a transitional period, how long was this period? i. I think a breather is needed to sort out things. Probably at least 90 days. But I also think this or Mission Continues would be a great way to transition. ii. After separating from the military, I continued my volunteer work, but I had to also make a living. I was volunteering at the Samms Shelter and also serving with the Boys and Girls Club. I also went back to school and participated in substitute teaching. However, the AmeriCorps allowance made it more appealing to volunteer. There was never a period that I was not volunteering or working for pay. iii. No transitional period. iv. I was ready immediately after I separated from service, I felt that I had valuable skills and the motivation to make a meaningful contribution to society. No one asked me to volunteer, so I didn’t. 2. How did you come to volunteer in your community? Did someone ask you or did you look for an opportunity? i. I sought out organizations that provided aid to veterans and active duty. ii. I learned about AmeriCorps through a television program. In the show, someone made fun of the AmeriCorps project. Another person then described AmeriCorps, how the volunteers took time off to go and work in the most impoverished and sometimes dangerous communities in the country and did it for no economic incentive, and that if anything they deserved medals for their attempts to change their nation. It sounded right up my alley. a. What veterans and/or military service organizations or government agencies (ex. The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Blue Star Families, Operation Homefront, Student Veterans of America, VA, etc.) have presented you with volunteer opportunities, if any? If so, what types of opportunities did they offer? Which opportunities appealed to you and why? i. Worked a grant for Red Cross focused on service members and veterans in conjunction with the program. I assisted Soldiers’ Angels, Airman Courage, Operation Homefront and other nonprofits. ii. I was not aware of any of the above organizations, but I have volunteered in several other organizations, including volunteering at the Fisher House at Fort Sam Houston. iii. To work with homeless veterans. Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 5 iv. No, I have never been contacted by any VSO with an opportunity to serve. b. Did faith-based or educational institutions play a role in recruiting you into community service? If so, please describe how they were successful. i. Faith-based could have encouraged me, but was not a player. ii. No, faith-based or educational institutions did not play a role. Even though I attend a church and am very active in it. iii. Both played a role. iv. No, they did not play a role in recruiting me into community service. 3. Do you feel like there were volunteer opportunities that matched the skills or values you learned in the military and your education? Why or why not? i. Being a 20-year recruiter with senior management, sales and communication skills could help anyone. ii. There were volunteer opportunities that matched my skills or values I learned in the military and my education. iii. Yes, because the skills I learned in the military were mostly based on working and assisting others. iv. I know for a fact that there are. To my knowledge, none were ever presented to me and the few times I asked, I was given the impression that I was not needed. 4. Do you consider your community service experience a good way to transition military and civilian life? i. Yes and no. Depends on the direction you want to travel — volunteering can always lose its way if financial needs are greater. ii. Yes, I consider my community service experience a good way to transition from military to civilian life. Serving your community in any capacity is a very good idea. iii. Yes. I think this would be an excellent first step for some. iv. YES!! This is an excellent way for members of the military community to transition from service to civilian life. 5. Do you have any specific advice for recruiting veterans into community service? i. I could give a list but, the truth be told, with gas prices on the rise I fully see less volunteerism as spare dollars are absorbed away on cost of living requirements. ii. No, but giving back is always empowering. iii. Attend a lot of meetings and network, network, network. Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 6 iv. Find a volunteer opportunity and stick with it for a year — you’ll have your eyes opened to a whole other way to serve. Conclusions — 1. Most members reported their primary motivation for joining the ALA Call to Service Corps was to serve the military community and had not considered any similar programs. The member that solely reported joining for another reason cited their desire to gain experience in the civilian sector. 2. All of the members cited the mission and/or sponsor organization as what attracted them to national service with the ALA Call to Service Corps. 3. Benefits were not a factor in motivating members to enter an AmeriCorps national service assignment. 4. Overall, members rated their national service as valuable work experience they could use on a resume. For example, one member felt their assignment provided them the experience that matched their education. 5. Members felt that they were willing to volunteer in their community with little to no transition time after separating from the military and that it was a good way to transition to civilian life. However, they felt that veterans and military service organizations, government agencies and faith-based and educational institutions generally did not play a role in recruiting them into community service. 6. All members reported that they felt volunteer opportunities existed that matched the skills or values they learned either in the military or their education. 7. For recruiting veterans: a. Into national service, members suggested using other veterans to promote the program, focusing on all veterans and highlighting the mission of the ALA Call to Service Corps. b. Into community service, members suggested utilizing veterans in empowering, long-term opportunities and promoting opportunities at various meetings. c. We recommend building relationships with organizations and agencies connected to the military community in the nonprofits’ geographic area to spread the word to veterans. This means building relationships with the VA, veteran student groups, veterans service organizations (such as the VFW and The American Legion), local military bases and other military focused organizations. d. Members had a low level of awareness of the AmeriCorps program prior to starting their community service. Most respondents had to look on their own for service opportunities. Only one respondent was informed of AmeriCorps as an option by the VA. Working with the VA, plus similar government agencies (for example: military career offices, military base family support units, etc) and large veteran and military focused nonprofits (VFW, The American Legion), would seem an efficient way to increase veterans’ awareness of AmeriCorps opportunities. If possible, it might be beneficial to see if AmeriCorps can be introduced to servicemembers before they leave the military through any type of existing transitional process from military to civilian life. Many smaller nonprofits may not have the resources to make extensive contacts with the military community. The Veterans in National Service with ALA C2SC Survey Results, pg. 7 Corporation for National and Community Service could help by promoting AmeriCorps to groups like the VA. e. All the respondents cited their primary motivation as helping veterans, but the AmeriCorps application portal does not have the option to filter for military focused service opportunities. f. The primary reasons all the respondents cited for entering service was to serve the veteran and military community. Overall, respondents were positive towards AmeriCorps as a transitional experience from military to civilian life. We recommend that recruitment materials directed towards veterans focus on these two concepts to recruit veterans into AmeriCorps.
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