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

~ September 2005 ~ Topics

PDA and the Volunteer: Some Opportunities

Two physics professors in Kansas got a grant to provide personal digital assistants (PDA) for their students. It is an experimental grant to see if these communication devices could improve classroom interaction and reinforce information delivered through lecture. It allows for instant feedback during class, to allow for changes as the class progresses. The PDA is interactive, unlike a textbook. So, what does this have to do with volunteers?

Web-based PDA systems means the user can use a laptop or cellphone to interact with someone else in real time. Many programs have volunteers who are at some distance doing service for the organization. This is especially true of outdoors or recreation volunteers. Imagine having the capacity to send information from a park site to headquarters in real time. Could be used for emergencies.Suppose volunteers are doing a species count, the PDA could connect volunteers in the field to each other and to headquarters.

The implementation of such an idea might be appealing to a funder, too. Hewlett-Packard supplied the PDAs for the professors in Kansas. You will need an expert on PDAs, check among current volunteers. Involve the computer experts in your own organization. Talk to field based volunteers about how this could help them. Much investigation is needed, but technology exists to make jobs easier, and not just for staff, but volunteers, too.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Volunteer Recruiting & Retention: A Marketing Approach, by Nancy Macduff and To Lead is to Serve, by Shar McBee.

Details for Volunteer Recruiting & Retention Book Details for To Lead Book

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Retirees: Will They Volunteer in the Future?

The retirement models of the past are not likely to take us into the very near future. Here’s why.

Retirement Eras

  • First era of retirement existed for 100,000 years. You worked all your life.
  • In the 1920's era of the Industrial Revolution, programs were established in Westernized countries to insure a safety net for the elderly who could no longer work in factories as they grew older and less physically able.
  • The third era of retirement in the 1960's and '70's became the "retire as young as possible and play golf" era. It is often referred to as the Golden Years.
  • And enter the "Baby Boomers" in the beginning of the 21st century, who have no intention of retiring.

Boomers are such a large "blip" on the demographic radar screen, it makes their influence overshadow other age cohorts. Attitudes toward retirement and hence volunteering are considerably different from the previous three eras. In a recent article in The Futurist, Ken Dychtwald, a gerontologist and psychologist, suggests a model he sees for millions of baby boom retirees.

Most retirees would rather be working. Though most want to work part time.

  • Many would like to do something they have never done before.
  • These folks do not want the pressure of their past life.
  • Many wish to work as a volunteer.
  • Rare is the person who wants the "golden age" of doing nothing for decades.
  • Most people are interested in working, because they do not have the money to live indefinitely on a fixed income.
  • They are wanting to break the mold and work later into life.
  • There are role models for this: John Glenn goes into space at 77, Sumner Redstone runs Viacom at 80, and Lena Horne is still doing concerts at 85.
  • The new retiree wants to step out of the pressure of work, work, work, and create more balance with leisure time.
  • Recreation, leisure, volunteering, and work would be more interspersed.

What does this mean for the volunteer programs and recruiting efforts?

1. Look at the volunteer opportunities in your organization. Could you advertise and promote them as a "second career" opportunity? Mindless jobs do not fall into this category.
2. Are you getting boomer age group volunteers to help you design new and exciting opportunities for the future? Do that and they may recruit their friends.
3. Are you looking at "part time" volunteer positions to allow people to work and volunteer in a seamless manner?
4. Talk to the administration of your organization about paid positions that are flexible, part time, and might bring new skills from boomers currently serving as volunteers. A high-powered advertising executive could be a boon to a struggling nonprofit organization.
5. See if you can present the case for building a budget for the volunteer program for mileage and out of pocket expenses. Many boomer retirees need money, as they have not planned well for the financial demands of retirement. Being able to offer mileage is an incentive to volunteer. Talk to staff at the local office of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. They can pay mileage and out of pocket expenses if people volunteer through them, for your organization.
6. And, you can continue to discuss other recruitment strategies to have in place as new folks retire over the next ten years.

Source: Ageless Aging: The Next Era of Retirement, Ken Dychtwald, The Futurist, July August 2005

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Keeping Effective Boards Healthy

How can you assess the effectiveness of a board of directors? Gill, Flynn, and Reissing have developed a 15-item assessment, the Governance Self-Assessment Checklist (GSAC) to do just that. The GSAC covers the good-governance essentials that board members ought to know about their organization, their responsibilities, and effective practices. In an article in Nonprofit and Management and Leadership (Spring 2005) the authors report on the results of administering the GSAC to 281 board members, 31 executive directors, in 32 organizations. Here are some snippets of their findings about boards.

    • 80% of executive directors agreed or strongly agreed that the board supports them in their management role and does not undermine.
    • The size of an organization's budget, board or staff was not significantly related to the effectiveness of the organization.
    • Board members want to improve these areas of governance:
      • Board engagement in planning and direction or the organization
      • Monitoring of information and results of programs, especially as it relates to sharing progress with stakeholders
      • Risk management, especially as related to by-laws, policies, regulations, and safeguarding against financial and other risks
      • Board support for the executive director, and oversight of the personnel practices of the organization.

Gill, Mel, Flynn, Robert J., Reissing, Elke, "The Governance Self-Assessment Checklist: An Instrument for Assessing Board Effectiveness." Vol. 15, no. 3, Spring 2005

For information on the study contact: Mel Gill, Synergy Associates, Ottawa at: mel.gill@synergyassociates.ca.

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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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