Volunteerism is one of the great gateways to community action. This creates a heady responsibility for the volunteer management professional to ensure that their volunteer opportunities are accessible to all members of society. Here are some resources to help adapt volunteer opportunities for populations who may be experiencing accessibility barriers, whether they be social, physical, mental, or developmental:
Two US organizations do an especially good job of providing information on accessible volunteer service: the Tarjan Center Service Inclusion Project at UCLA and The National Service Inclusion Project. Visit these sites for comprehensive resources on issues including disability etiquette, legal obligations and reasonable accommodations, recruitment and supervision, and the benefits of inclusion.
In addition to accessibility, there are other significant barriers to volunteerism: no time, language gaps, childcare responsibilities, financial obligations, lack of transportation, misconceptions about volunteering, fear or apprehension. Here are some strategies to recognize, and overcome, these barriers:
As one of the great democratic activities, volunteerism should always be accessible, representative, and meaningful. In our efforts as volunteer management professionals, making sure that diverse populations are engaged in voluntary action is of utmost importance. And while the strategies for reaching out to different segments of our community are as diverse as the communities themselves, the end goal remains the same – everyone can volunteer and it's our job to make it happen! Here are some great resources on overall diversity, as well as population-specific resources for the LGBTQ community, homeless volunteers, rural and military communities, Spanish-speaking volunteers, and immigrant and refugee volunteers.