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Tips From the Field: Engaging Boomers as Volunteers

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

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Baby Boomers constitute a valuable and often untapped resource for volunteer opportunities.

Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers bring with them a wealth of experience, skills, and knowledge that can greatly benefit various organizations. However, successfully engaging this demographic requires understanding their unique motivations and preferences.

Here are some practical tips to attract, motivate, and retain Boomer volunteers, ensuring that both the individuals and the organizations they serve gain the most from the experience.

Cultivate Volunteer Motivation

  • Ensure volunteers understand their role in the agency's mission, why they are asked to do it, and how they fit into the bigger picture. This cultivates volunteer motivation.
  • Provide opportunities for volunteer feedback, valuing their opinions and impact.

Conduct Interviews

  • Ask: How do you hope to make an impact?
  • Importance of first contact; assume they’ve done some research.
  • Tailor recruitment to the skill set of the volunteer.
  • Offer a variety of tasks and choices, including direct and indirect client contact.
  • Meet prospective volunteers for coffee to show genuine interest.

Design Diverse Volunteer Roles

  • Develop a range of positions by asking department heads for ideas they lack time to execute, then turn these into volunteer projects.
  • For volunteers needing flexibility, pair two people to share a position, increasing flexibility and team support.

Track Volunteers' Skills 

  • Keep a list of volunteer skills and brainstorm with staff on how to utilize them.
  • Email staff about volunteer skills and create a friendly competition to utilize the skills.
  • Frame the volunteer position to demonstrate the importance you place on it: with business cards, cell phone, office space etc.
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Focus on Recruitment

  • Make the recruitment messaging crisp, exciting and positive.
  • When a new volunteer comes in, we ask how they heard about your organization. If it's from a current volunteer, we put the volunteer’s name in a monthly drawing for a prize. This gives a fun incentive for volunteers to recruit other volunteers!

Offer Support

  • Give flexibility to Boomers with opportunities to move from position to position.
  • Re-adjust your work schedule for evening hours one time a week for volunteers.
  • Boomers from the business world expect quick action. Try to meet expectations when you can, and when you cannot, make clear the constraints we are operating under.
  • Look for Indicators the volunteer is ready to take on higher level responsibility: the volunteer shows consistent commitment and follow through, indicates an interest in doing more and/or the staff see the volunteer has capability to do more.

Show Volunteer Appreciation

  • Demonstrating impact is the new “thank you”; share statistics and offer training or promotions.

Get Organizational Buy-In

  • Start with small changes where you have staff that "get it" and then promote the success.
  • Set up a task force to guide the change. Include top management, front line staff, lead volunteers and the people in the organization who are natural “change agents.”

Engaging Boomers as Volunteers

Engaging Baby Boomers as volunteers can profoundly transform any organization. By understanding their unique motivations and aligning volunteer opportunities with their skills and interests, organizations can harness a highly dedicated and proficient volunteer force.

The key to success lies in clear communication, flexible opportunities, and meaningful recognition. With the right strategies, both the volunteers and the organization will thrive, creating a dynamic partnership that enhances the mission and impact of the organization.

Following these tips will not only attract and retain Boomer volunteers but also foster an inclusive and supportive volunteer environment. By leveraging the valuable contributions of Baby Boomers, organizations can achieve their goals and make a lasting difference in the communities they serve.
 
Suggestions and ideas shared by leaders of volunteers at symposiums held in St. Paul, MN on 10/27/2008 and in St. Cloud, MN on 1/27/2009.
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