Be a Great Volunteer – Put Military Skills to Use to Help Others!

Be a Great Volunteer - USAA Member Community


by Chad Storlie


Being a volunteer, a volunteer organizer or the member of a not for profit is hard work. Often times, the challenge of how to make a charity operate as an integrated, effective, and cohesive operation is as challenging as fulfilling as the objective of the charity. Military skill sets can have a huge effect on helping the charity operate better as well as serve the organization’s mission more effectively.


Here are six ways military skill sets help a not for profit be a more effective organization.


Military to Volunteer Skill #1 – It’s All About the Mission. In the military, meeting the mission objectives and ensuring everyone in the military unit is dedicated 100% to the mission is the norm. For a charity, the day-to-day stresses of operations, fund raising, and compliance can sometimes cloud the focus of both staff and volunteers. A military focus on all assets in the charity, volunteers, staff, and resources, with a sole dedication to meet the needs of the served population is a breath of fresh air and brings with it a spirit of service.


Military to Volunteer Skill #2 – Safety. Accidents just don’t happen in the home or the workplace – they happen everywhere. A lot of charity work deals with construction, food preparation, warehouse operations, and lifting heavy objects. Using the military safety principles of identifying hazards, creating safety steps, and then enforcing their use is a great way to ensure staff, volunteers, and the clients the charity serves all remain safe and healthy.


Military to Volunteer Skill #3- Planning. Anyone who has worked at a military base or a military member is mostly likely great at planning. Military planning takes regular planning several steps beyond the normal to ensure that plans are reasonable, rehearsed, resourced, communicated, and then realized from a plan into specific results.


Military to Volunteer Skill #4 – Initiative. Anyone who has even an hour of military history knows that initiative and the spirit of finding a way to make a change are what win battles. Use the military concept of initiative to find ways to be more effective, offer additional services, ways to reduce costs, and ways to create more fundraising opportunities.


Military to Volunteer Skill #5 - SOP’s. The staffs of charities have a daunting challenge in how to make volunteers who are different every day perform the same tasks every day to the same standard. In the military, we would say that this calls for a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). An SOP for a kitchen operation would say that the dishwasher does these tasks during food preparation, then these tasks during meal serving time, and so on. SOP’s are the answer to make volunteers effective and give the served clientele the same standards of care during their services. SOP’s are what create and maintain quality.


Military to Volunteer Skill #6 - Leading by Example. As in every military unit, Leadership by Example is what wins the day. Someone who sets the standard from the most mundane to the most important topic, follows instructions, helps others, and is pleasant to be around is a person that everyone wants to be and to be around. Leadership by Example is one of the simplest and one of the best activities that volunteers can do.


Volunteer work is hard work and military skills can make volunteering more effective. Using military skill sets of a mission focus, creating a safe working environment, thorough planning, exercising initiative, creating Standard Operating Procedures, and then Leading by Example are all ways that military skill sets can make charities better.


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Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.




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