Voluntary Action: People and Programs

March 5, 1969

Report Outline
Volunteers and the Federal Government
Fact-Finding Studies on Volunteer Work
Impact of Social Change on Volunteering

Volunteers and the Federal Government

Nixon's Interest in Pushing Volunteer Services

So far, the Nixon administration lacks a slogan on the order of New Deal, New Frontier, or Great Society. A theme now emerging suggests that its period in history may come to be known as the Volunteer Era. The President has made it clear that he intends to lean heavily on the free offering of service by individual Americans in all stations of life to help solve the nation's serious social problems. The White House has let it be known also that encouragement of volunteering, among women at least, will be a special concern of Mrs. Nixon. Consideration is being given to launching a nationwide campaign to multiply the ranks of volunteers.

Voluntary service in conjunction with government is not new. Two major government-sponsored volunteer programs—the Peace Corps and Vista (Volunteers in Service to America)—were started during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Now the new President has promised to give volunteers and voluntary organizations unprecedented responsibilities. For the individual volunteer, this should mean more work and more status. For the voluntary organizations through which a significant amount of work is channeled, it may mean greater involvement in areas of social disorder and possibly greater opportunity to influence public policy in those areas.

President Nixon's emphasis on volunteering—yet to be spelled out in detail—raised instantly the question of the relative positions of government and private agencies in welfare work. This is a question which might soon boil down into matters of money: whether the administration would seek to shift some of the financial burden from the taxpayer's to the voluntary contributor's back, and whether paid workers in government would be replaced by unpaid volunteers in private agencies. Professional societies and labor unions are already sensitive to the implications of competition for jobs presented by skilled volunteers who can afford to work without pay. The preponderance of white, middle-to-high-income women among volunteers in the private social service field is a recognized problem which the more forward-looking agencies are finding it difficult to overcome.

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