With over 77 million baby boomers comprising approximately 28% of the U.S. population, this generation represents an enormous potential for volunteers. Aside from being the largest demographic in terms of numbers, baby boomers also represent the highest volunteer rate of any generational age group. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rate for baby boomers is 33.2% – more than four percentage points above the national average of 28.8%. Even as baby boomers approach retirement, their desire to contribute to their communities does not waver. In fact, upon leaving the workforce, many boomers will look for meaningful volunteer opportunities as a way to stay active, utilize their skills, and interact with others. With the eldest of this generation just now reaching retirement age, more and more boomers may soon be looking to leave their old jobs behind and devote more time to supporting a cause that they are passionate about. While this is all great news for nonprofits, attracting boomer volunteers to your organization can sometimes be tricky. With the many different volunteer opportunities that exist today, your organization may have to work extra hard to make your cause stand out among the rest. When developing a marketing campaign targeting the boomer audience, there are some important things to keep in mind that may help your recruitment efforts. In this article, we’ll explore some of these key areas of focus and discuss several recommendations for recruiting baby boomer volunteers.
What Motivates Boomers to Volunteer? Before we dive deeper into the discussion of ways to attract baby boomers to your organization, we must first understand why they volunteer. According to the Harvard study, Reinventing Age, baby boomers are more likely to volunteer as part of a social interaction rather than of out of a sense of duty or obligation. Furthermore, when selecting volunteer opportunities, boomers tend to look for those where their personal and professional skills and abilities can be put to good use. Many of these individuals are well-educated, highly skilled executives and entrepreneurs who prefer the challenge of a leadership role. Menial tasks such as stuffing envelopes or organizing files simply will not cut it. In order to keep boomers engaged, volunteer managers must resist the temptation to fill unskilled or lower-level positions with volunteers who are eager to contribute at a higher level. Take the time to fully evaluate the skills and interests of your volunteers and correctly match them with corresponding duty positions. Providing a meaningful and challenging experience is crucial to attracting and keeping baby boomers involved. Furthermore, research indicates that boomers are not motivated by recognition based upon number of hours served. Rather, their satisfaction comes from knowing that their efforts have positively impacted the organization or cause and made a difference. For this generation, the quality of service greatly outweighs the quantity aspect.
Rethinking Volunteer Management – Tips for Attracting and Retaining Baby Boomer Volunteers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an American turns 50 every 7.5 seconds – approximately 10,000 people every day. By 2015, those above the age of 50 will make up 45% of the American population. Keeping these statistics in mind, it’s easy to understand why nonprofits are beginning to reconsider recruitment strategies to more effectively target the baby boomer generation. For organizations looking to attract boomer volunteers, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure your volunteer environment appeals to the needs of this generation. Offered below are some key recommendations for attracting and retaining baby boomer volunteers.
Provide a Meaningful Volunteer Experience. Baby boomers will seek out organizations where they can use their skills and know-how to positively impact society. In order to keep them engaged, boomers must be assigned to higher level volunteer positions where they are continuously challenged. Some organizations are even beginning to place baby boomer volunteers in key areas such as strategic planning, program development, information technology, and training/education.
View Them As Coworkers. Boomers, especially those coming from the corporate world, are comfortable in leadership roles and not afraid to share their opinion when the opportunity presents itself. Instead of just telling them what to do, ask for their input, as you would any of your coworkers. Establishing a professional working relationship with boomers can result in a win-win situation for both the nonprofit and the individual volunteer.
Offer Different Levels of Time Commitment. Remember, boomers are busy people. By offering different lengths of time commitment, volunteers can choose the ones that best fit into their busy schedules. Some may want to volunteer on a regular basis, while others may prefer to take part in a one-time project. Likewise, consider offering family volunteer opportunities that allow them make a difference and, at the same time, spend valuable time with family.
Be Mindful of Your Marketing Materials. Baby boomers don’t see themselves as “aging”. Likewise, most don’t plan on slowing down upon retirement. Rather, boomers view retirement as a time to pursue new interests and do things they never before had time for. Therefore, promotional materials should include images of baby boomers participating in new, unexpected opportunities. Carefully craft your marketing message so that it tells your story and also indicates what the volunteer will get out of the experience.
Train, Organize, and Manage Volunteers. Baby boomers need to see that their time and talents are being used effectively and efficiently. If your volunteer program is unorganized or lacks leadership, you will struggle to retain boomer volunteers. Before attempting to recruit baby boomers, make sure you have a strategic plan in place to handle the increase in potential volunteers. Many organizations turn to online volunteer management systems to help with the scheduling, organization, and management of volunteers. Likewise, nonprofits should also provide meaningful training opportunities for boomers to help them reach their full potential as a volunteers.
Reach Boomers Through Religious Entities. According to the 2011 Volunteering in America Study, boomers typically volunteer through religious organizations. The study points out that in 2010, approximately 40% of boomer volunteerism was affiliated with a church or other religious entity. Keeping these stats in mind, maybe it’s time explore the possibility of reaching out to religious groups to take advantage of their influence on the baby boomer demographic.
Krista Balbach is the Communications Manager