The Importance of Volunteers
"Expressions of giving have a rarity value and should therefore be treasured"
Volunteers are a precious resource and occupy a special role in Care after Combat, offering their services for the benefit of veterans in the criminal justice system, without seeking remuneration. We in turn, provide contemporaneous training together with ongoing professional development thereby ensuring that all volunteers understand and meet the necessary required standards in order to best serve our veteran community. By encouraging volunteers to develop a compassionate and positive attitude and by capitalising on the enthusiasm they possess, veterans together with their families, have and will continue to derive significant benefits.
The concept of volunteer engagement is associated with positive, fulfilling experiences resulting from the volunteers’ interactions with the work of Care after Combat and being involved in a socially responsible activity i.e. veterans in the criminal justice system. It is this interactive relationship which distinguishes the nature of engagement and extends the concept beyond mere involvement and a charitable experience; while other relational concepts (e.g. participation, commitment, satisfaction) act as antecedents and/or outcomes of the dynamic engagement processes. Volunteer engagement, in particular, has been found to be associated with commitment, intention to remain, psychological well-being and volunteer performance.
Within the charitable sector volunteering as a form of service provision is, to some extent, a central tenet of modern society. It is an act of free will that results in benefits to others, and typically entails a level of input that extends beyond spontaneous assistance. Thus, volunteering is an exchange that requires individuals to actively decide to commit their time and skills. The efforts of people voluntarily performing unpaid work substantially contributes to the economic, social, and cultural functioning of Care after Combat.
Perceived benefits to volunteering include strengthening social relationships, developing skills, enhancing career prospects, as well as the more traditional contributing to community and “making a difference”. While volunteers typically have no expectation of material pay or benefit to themselves, these attributes do not preclude them from experiencing personal gains from their involvement. The process is acknowledged to be mutually beneficial for both the volunteer and Care after Combat, while increasing time, complexity and resource constraints require those involved see sufficient value in their volunteer efforts.
Hence, Care after Combat has, through many years of experience, enhanced its understanding as to the nature of volunteer engagement and the value outcomes volunteers seek in order to retain and grow a base of volunteers. We have identified both psychological and socio-economic benefits to the individual together with well-being outcomes and the overall value that arises from the engaging with Care after Combat.
The experience has demonstrated positive subjective evidence that confirms activity-based volunteering roles has a positive impact on veterans in prison, especially around social and emotional wellbeing. In order to achieve these gains, we have concluded that volunteers need to be carefully recruited, sufficiently prepared, well-matched and receive appropriate continuing support and co-ordination from Regional Managers within the overall organisation.
In a volunteering context, value is co-created through volunteers providing their own resources (e.g. knowledge, skills and empathy) and interacting with the resources of the organization, allowing unique value to emerge for the volunteer, the beneficiary and the not-for-profit organization. Volunteers do not extract value from consuming the services of Care after Combat (i.e. value-in-use) but rather obtain value from integrating their resources with the organization’s resources in order to achieve benefit for veterans in the criminal justice system.
Dr Nicholas Murdoch