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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ October 2004 ~ Topics

Generations with Different Goals

Baby boomers, Gen X, Generation Y, the Millennials, what do each of the groups want from a volunteer position? Find out about the latest research from Mary Merrill, editor of the Journal of Volunteer Administration. She maintains a personal web site with articles on the differences in generations. Here are three current topics and their Web Addresses:

  1. Exploring the Next Generation of Retirees: http://www.merrillassociates.net/topicofthemonth.php?topic=200208
  2. Attracting a New Wave of Retirees:
  3. Move Over Mom and Pop—an overview of four generations:

Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge.

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Pre-Retirement for Volunteers

Volunteers do retire. Sometimes an experienced volunteer needs to stay home with small children, go back into the workforce, care for an elderly relative, or travel the world. When the person leaves it can be traumatic for the organization. Volunteers are often reluctant to depart because they know how it will impact the overall program. The individual does not wish to disappoint staff, volunteers, or clients. How can the trauma be reduced? A Pre-retirement Program could be the answer.

Form a committee of experienced volunteers to help set up such a program. These are people who might have to take advantage of this in the future and can advise on what would work.

Develop a brochure that is shared with volunteers signing up for long-term assignments that spells out the details of how the organization likes to handle the departure of experienced volunteers. Here are some things to consider in a Volunteer Pre-Retirement Program.

  • Offer volunteers a sabbatical. Keep the volunteer on the mailing list and in the loop, but give them six months or a year to take a break. And when the agreed upon time is up be sure to call and inquire about their return. Offer them an "ease-in" type of task so they are not overwhelmed with restarting their involvement with the organization.
  • Establish a time minimum for notification of departure. Consider establishing a minimum time prior to departure that would help the organization make a smooth transition. It could be three to six months.
  • Gather information on work done. Develop a system of gathering written information from the volunteer on the work done. It is not enough to hand them a pad of paper and say, "Write it down." Rather set an appointment with another volunteer and the retiree. Provide some standard questions. The result of the interview then becomes the basis of a "desk manual" outlining the person's job.
  • Create a period of job sharing. Recruit a volunteer or two who can be trained to replace the retiree. Have the retiree cut back on their effort and do a job share with the other people. This means the experienced person is available for the work and for questions when the new team is taking on responsibilities.
  • Provide references. Some volunteers might benefit from references from the program. Decide what form that should take and how it will be provided to the volunteer.

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Recruiting Volunteers for Difficult or Long Term Assignments, by Steve McCurley and Volunteer Recruiting & Retention, A Marketing Approach, and Designing Programs for the Volunteer Sector, by author and managing editor Nancy Macduff.

Details for Recruiting Volunteers Book Recruiting & Retention Book Image Details for Designing Programs Book

Are You New to Your Job?

Did you just start as the manager of volunteers? Did you inherit a group of very experienced volunteers who loved your predecessor? Here are some tips to get you started on the "right foot."

  • Depending on when the volunteers work (how and where), draw them all together and introduce yourself. Give a brief introduction. Practice it and keep it to less than two minutes.
  • Explain why you are there. "Barbara left to run the volunteer program at the hospital. I know you wish her well and her years of experience working with you will help her in the new job." Then move on to why you think you were hired for the position. "I have a work history that includes raising money. As you know we will be recruiting new volunteers who will work in that area, but I am excited to work with those of you who provide the non-money type of service this program is noted for."
  • Tell them your immediate plan. Summarize what you hope to accomplish in the next month. Bigger goals can come later. "I will need your help to accomplish my goals. You will need to help me understand all the things volunteers do in the organization. I have a general view, but I know I can count on you to give me the details."
  • Make plans for small group meetings. Explain that you will be meeting with small groups of volunteers to learn about the program and discuss some of your plans for the future.


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, call 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.

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