Baby boomers as volunteers

Volunteers from the baby boomer generation are looking to be engaged with nonprofits and utilize their skills.

Welcoming baby boomers into your nonprofit organization should be a great experience and with the right knowledge you can make it a lasting experience. Baby boomers make great volunteers with lots to offer the organizations they serve.  According to Michigan State University Extension, they may volunteer differently than previous generations but they are still making a difference and bringing their skills with them. If organizations plan carefully for this group of volunteers they will enjoy skilled, committed volunteers. These volunteers can offer fresh perspectives and strengthen the programs they support. The baby boomers that stay in the workforce are more likely to volunteer to those who retire.

Are you wondering just exactly who baby boomers are? Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964 which makes them 50-to-68-years-old. In their 30’s they were volunteering less than the generations before them at the same age however they are now surpassing their predecessors as volunteers. This trend may reflect the choice of many baby boomers to have children later in life, participate in increased education and the expectation that they will work later in life. 

Baby boomers are looking for ways they can be unique when they volunteer and seek challenging opportunities. Baby boomer volunteers are not looking to perform mundane tasks but are looking for an opportunity to utilize their skills to have an impact. This can leave organizations feeling unprepared and volunteers flustered if they have not given thought about how to engage this generation with new roles to meet their needs. The key is for organizations to articulate what tasks, programs and projects could benefit from the skills of potential volunteers. Organizations should develop detailed job descriptions, offer professional development opportunities for volunteers, engage staff to embrace volunteers as valued partners and seek ways to recognize volunteers for their contributions. These are steps that will help build the relationship between your organization and the volunteers.

When we carefully match volunteers with positions to match their skills we find greater success in their retention. Volunteers who are engaged and serve 100-499 hours a year are more likely to volunteer the following year; this is a cycle that benefits volunteers and nonprofits alike. The Corporation for National and Community Service research also points out that 79 percent of volunteers who serve 12 of more weeks a year will continue volunteering. Consider designing positions that provide ongoing engagement, the utilization of their skills and are clearly articulated so outcomes can be measured.

Baby boomers volunteers are here and ready to serve—how will you engage them? Will you value what they can bring to your organization and its clientele? Enjoy the baby boomer volunteer for all that they have to offer and be ready to invite them in to your organization; their skills, expertise and work ethic will make you glad you did.

MSU Extension utilizes volunteers from many generations to deliver 4-H youth development programs across this great state. If you are interested in joining us to share your skills and talents with young people contact your local MSU Extension office or visit our volunteer website to complete the online form to receive more information about the opportunities that are waiting for you.

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