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Volunteerism by the Generations

Engaging Boomers AND New Generations of Volunteers

This article originally appeared on and is featured here in partnership with the Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement.

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The backbone of any charity or community initiative is the volunteers who selflessly give their time.

As the social landscape evolves, so do the preferences and expectations of potential volunteers. From Baby Boomers to the freshest members of Generation Z, understanding what drives volunteers is pivotal to keeping your volunteer program thriving.

Below are 12 actionable insights to help you adapt in order to recruit and retain a diverse spectrum of volunteers:

1. Understand Volunteers' Need for Impact

Understand volunteers’ deep-seated need to have impact and use that understanding in all facets of how you involve them as volunteers.

2. Focus on Volunteer Interview Strategy

Center the volunteer interview on discovering the prospective volunteer’s passions, co-designing their volunteer role, and assisting them in assessing if your organization aligns with the impact they aim to achieve.

3. Expand Your Volunteer Opportunities

Offer a wide choice of volunteer opportunities in all aspects of the organization’s operations.

4. Create Opportunities with Varying Time Commitments 

Include some short term and seasonal volunteer positions to align with current volunteer availability.

5. Offer Skills-based Volunteer Opportunities 

Offer skills-based volunteer opportunities to maximize what volunteers can bring to the organization.

6. Focus on Volunteer Opportunity Descriptions

Develop volunteer position descriptions that are engaging and show impact.

7. Create Leadership Roles

Move volunteers into project leadership roles. Be open to project ideas that volunteers propose.

8. Focus on Volunteer Recruitment Messaging 

Develop appealing volunteer recruitment messages, working through your organization’s networks. Cultivate prospects and be highly visible on the web.

9. Adjust Volunteer Supervision Techniques 

Re-frame traditional volunteer supervision to leading volunteers and offering collegial support. Identify high potential volunteers and cultivate them to take on additional responsibility.

10. Reframe Volunteer Recognition

Also re-frame volunteer recognition to respond to the value current volunteers place on having impact and on being life-long learners.

11. Be Willing to Make Organizational Changes 

Be an instigator for these organizational changes. Identify your champions for change. Start small in a part of the organization open to innovation and then market the success with colleagues in other parts of the organization.

12. Stay Curious 

Create systems to monitor changes in volunteer expectations and become a learning organization that adapts to changing needs of volunteers.

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Adapting to the evolving landscape of volunteer engagement isn't just beneficial—it's essential for the sustainability of your charity or community initiative.

By embracing the diverse motivators of volunteers from various generations and implementing best practices that resonate with their values, your organization can cultivate a dynamic and dedicated volunteer base.

Remember, the investment you make in understanding and nurturing your volunteers today will be the cornerstone of your organization's success tomorrow. Let's celebrate the differences, harness the collective power of our volunteers, and continue to grow together, learning from each other every step of the way

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