The Baby Boomers are set to change the volunteering landscape. Watch them closely and you will see into the future of volunteering and volunteer management.
Boom baby boom
What demographic group are the trendsetters and will have the greatest impact on volunteering in the future? Yes, it is the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 to 1964). Their sheer size and numbers make them a very formidable force. Ken Dychtwald and Joe Flower in their book Age Wave found that at each of stage of their lives, whatever were the needs and desires of the Baby Boomers became society’s most dominant concerns. They suggest that if you can anticipate the movement of the Baby Boomer generation, you can see into the future for volunteer managers and volunteer recruitment.
From success to significance
Many Baby Boomers are now experiencing their ‘mid-life’ and are asking themselves ‘what am I doing with the rest of my life?’ Be aware that for Baby Boomers this is a time to reflect on the past, question the present and refocus and reprioritize into the future. Many of them have been successful in their careers, they now also want to be significant in their lives. That’s great news, because volunteering offers the Baby Boomers the ideal opportunity to feel significant through social and community involvement.
Are you listening?
Get ready for the Baby Boomers – get your house in order! Baby Boomers are better educated and more assertive than their parents. They are used to giving feedback and are not prepared to just stand by without comment. They will ‘vote with their feet’ and leave those organizations that do not communicate openly, encourage feedback and respond appropriately.
Do tensions and inequalities still exist between your paid staff and volunteers? Watch out! Baby Boomers will not put up with this. They expect to be treated as equals. If the contribution of both paid staff and volunteers is not equally appreciated within your organization, you will find yourself without Baby Boomer volunteers.
Be aware that Baby Boomers are both the ‘stress’ and ‘sandwich’ generation. They are caught between their ageing parents who are living longer and who will require their assistance, and their adult children who will not leave home. As the pace of life has increased, Baby Boomers have found themselves ‘time poor’ with little time for family, friends, children, parents, career, hobbies and, oh yes – volunteering.
The most precious commodity of a Baby Boomer is time. Baby Boomers will give
of their time only if it will be an interesting, challenging and meaningful volunteering experience. It might be time to adopt a new strategy by asking potential volunteers, beginning with the Baby Boomers: ‘What are your needs from volunteering?’ If organizations are able to identify the needs of the potential volunteer, then they are more likely to be able to ‘match’ the individual to a volunteering opportunity that meets those needs.
No rocking chair retirement
Baby Boomers will not allow themselves to be caught in the one volunteer role forever. Even so, Baby Boomers see volunteering as a high priority in approaching retirement. It’s just that Baby Boomers have a very different view about retirement – they see themselves as taking up new learning opportunities, pursuing travel and hobbies, exploring their creative talents, continuing in part-time employment and of course, volunteering. It will be a time of transition rather than termination. Baby Boomers will still want to volunteer, but they will have less time to commit to their volunteer work and will require greater flexibility in what is being asked of them.
Baby Boomers are set to reshape and redefine volunteer recruitment, retention and recognition programs. Be aware of how the trends established by the Baby Boomers will impact on you and your organization. The greater your responsiveness to these trends, the greater your success in volunteer recruitment, retention and volunteer recognition. Want a look into the future?
As an added BONUS you can download the full report - BOOMNET: Capturing the Baby Boomer Volunteer.
© Judy Esmond, 2007
Dr Judy Esmond is a leading expert on how to gain, sustain and retain volunteers. She is author of best selling books and numerous research reports on volunteer management, volunteer recruitment, retention and volunteer recognition. Subscribe to her 'Ultimate Ideas' Newsletter filled with 100s of great ideas on volunteer recruitment, retention and recognition at www.morevolunteers.com
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