VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism



  • The Future and Volunteering
  • The Best Educated and Arts Volunteers
  • Keeping Volunteers and Leading in the Future

The Future and Volunteering

Trends in the workplace can change the way in which people volunteer. Today's workers have a dizzying array of ways in which they can be employed; part-time, job share, contracted, or flexi-hours, to name a few. These changes are mirrored in the number of volunteers who want to volunteer episodically.

Here is some workplace trends that are sure to impact volunteer programs over the next twenty years.

Baby boom echo hits between 2000 - 2012.
Generation X is settling in and starting their families. The annual birthrate in the US will reach 43 million between 2000- 2012; this is equal to the highest number of births in 1957. That was the year of the highest birthrates in the 20th century. This means that childcare needs will increase for volunteers and workers, alike.

Seeking the older manager
Job cuts and reorganizations caused deep wounds in many companies. Older managers will be sought to help develop policies and help boost employee morale. Rehiring means less cost for training. The same is true for volunteer programs. The long-term volunteer of the past will be brought in to "manage" programs with younger volunteers, who are apt to be working episodically.

Retiree Entrepreneurs
The Baby Boom generation is a few years from beginning its retirement. These waves of retirees will be setting up their own businesses, and undoubtedly hiring people of a similar age and value set. Volunteers from the Baby Boom generation want fulfilling and meaningful work. They will be anxious to start their own "programs" and services.

Senior workers go South
Many US companies have a shrinking pool of workers. As retirees move to warm climates, companies are expected to contract out work to these computer and Internet literate workers. Volunteer programs can adjust by increasing the opportunity for people to do their tasks or assignments online.

Disabled move into workplace
More employees are entering the workplace that have physical disabilities. Education for other workers and managers around people with special needs is in the future. Volunteer programs are beginning to reach out to people who have historically not been volunteers. The physically disabled are one of these groups. Nonprofit organizational staff and volunteers, government workers need to be educated as to the value of making adaptations to meet the needs of these workers.

Christmas as relic
Culture diversity in the work place is likely to make the annual Christmas party a thing of the past. The US has 1500 primary religions functioning in the US. Muslims will soon become the second largest religious group in the US. It is expected that employers will not have a list of days on which they close, but rather, a list of possible holidays from which the worker can select a predetermined number to observe. This is bound to impact all volunteer programs.

 Working 24/7
To stay competitive many companies will move to 24-hour availability to clients and workers. The latest technology means employees can have flexible schedules, while relying heavily on portable phones, lap top or "palm" type computers. This "new" worker is already with us. In 1997 27% of the civilian labor force worked flexible hours.

The Best Educated and Arts Volunteers

37% of all Americans visited a museum in 1998, but 71% of folks with graduate degrees and 66% of those with bachelor's degrees made such a trip. Classical music and dance are doing well among the best educated. About 25% of college graduates have done some type of volunteer work for arts organizations. These well-schooled folks are also likely to contribute to the arts.

In 2000 25% of Americans between 25 ­ 54 have a college degree. Among Baby Boomers the number rises to 30%. Increasingly people are returning to college later in life. This increase in the population of well educated bodes well for the future of volunteer programs in arts and museums.

Keeping Volunteers and Leading in the Future

Leadership in organizations has been undergoing a systemic change over the last two decades. Planning, organizing and leading certain institutions means unleashing creativity and maximizing choice for volunteers, as well as paid staff.

Harlan Cleveland, a former college president, academic dean, and director of the World Future Society sees some trends on the way that will impact organizations (and volunteer programs).

Everyone is in charge. Collective effort will run programs and organizations. No one person will be in charge, but several people who have an interest in the general outcome of the project.

Broader is better. The more people affected by decisions, the more they want to be consulted. The more consultation and participation in the decision making process, the more likely the decisions will work.

Fewer rules. When there are minimal rules then there is more opportunity for creativity on the part of individuals and groups. It allows for such things as regional flexibility, functional differences, and adaptations. Flexibility and informality seem to enhance and improve such things as support, morale, enthusiasm, and satisfaction.

Planning is fluid. Rigid planning is a thing of the past. New planning starts with a general direction and is improvised, keeping in mind the central theme. Plans are arrived at, only after consultation with many people impacted by the decisions.

Information sharing. Information is shared widely and broadly. In the new environment one never knows which person can take information and turn it to the advantage of the organization. Therefore, it is essential that data gathered be widely shared, not just with those with a "need to know."

From:The Futurist, "Coming Soon: The Nobody-in Charge Society," by Harlan Cleveland September-October, 2000


The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future.

The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, contact Crystal
Hill at 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

Return to the Top of the Page

Copyright by Nancy Macduff.

Some images on this site are licensed from Web.Pix
Copyright 1996 DiAMAR Interactive Corporation, all rights reserved.