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~ March 2007 ~ Topics

Whence the Traditional Guild or Auxiliary?
By Mary Kay Hood

Editor’s note: Mary Kay Hood is Director of Guest and Volunteer Services for Hendricks Medical Region in Danville, IN. In a recent exchange on CYBERVPM, a listserv for managers of volunteer programs, she briefly described how she re-energized the auxiliary associated with her program. I asked her to expand on that article for the benefit of the readers of Volunteer Today who work with guilds, auxiliaries or membership organizations. This is the first in a series of articles that tell how she is accomplishing this feat. Hood is an experienced manager of volunteers and author of the book "One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions?: A Practical Approach." The book is available at the Volunteer Today Bookstore. Those interested in signing up for CYBERVPM can find subscription information on the Volunteer Today page—Internet Resources.
Whence the Traditional Guild or Auxiliary?
Part One – How we got to where we are.

Just say the word "guild" or "auxiliary" and the younger generations shake their head and shy away. Membership in these types of organizations has been on the decline for years. It's not just guilds or auxiliaries, but membership organizations of all kinds have seen a decline in recent years as well (Leigh Wintz). There has also be a decline in business club membership (Marroquin). All of this declining membership points to the differences in philosophy between the generations. Understanding the generations gives insight into understanding guild/auxiliary/club membership.

According to Lancaster & Stillman, there are generally four generational categories when looking at the US population. Those generations break down into:

Traditionalists – born between 1900 – 1945
Baby Boomers – born between 1946 – 1964
Generation Xers – born between 1965 – 1980
Millennials – born between 1981 – 1999

Take a closer look at membership driven organizations and you see large numbers of traditionalists. As the name implies, traditionalists embody the ethic of hard work, duty and sacrifice. These people came through the Great Depression and the greatest war this world had ever seen. They believe in stability and don't like things to change.

The baby boomers believe in crusading causes and personal fulfillment. Sometimes thought of the instant gratification generation, this generation wants it all. One of the first generations to have both parents working outside the home, that left little, if any, time for guild/auxiliary involvement. This philosophy doesn't match the traditional view of guilds and auxiliaries. And consequently, membership did not appeal to them, so it declined.

In early years of healthcare, museums and zoos as well as many other organizations, guilds and auxiliaries were the power brokers in the fundraising business. They raised money and they built hospitals, bought art, funded exhibits, programs, services, etc. And they did it very well. In the early heyday of guilds and auxiliaries, membership was generally made up of doctors or executive wives, housewives and stay at home moms looking to have an impact in their world.

It was during the 1950's that hospitals volunteer programs were "the largest and most successful example of organized volunteering in America" (Vineyard & McCurley). During the 1950's as well, there were not the large number of nonprofits to choose from so people were drawn to the traditional venue of volunteer opportunities: healthcare, museums, zoos, Red Cross. The current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that only 8.1% volunteer in health care with the largest percentage choosing religious organizations followed by education or youth service entities. So is it any wonder that as those housewives aged and the following generations have so many other choices that guild/auxiliary involvement would decline? When you add in that the Boomer generation is the first generation to have both parents working outside the home, time constraints also begin to play into declining membership numbers as well.

But does that mean that guilds and auxiliaries just disappear? Next month: one answer to the age-old question – what now for guilds/auxiliaries?


  • Lancaster, Lynne C & David Stillman. (2002). When Generations Collide: Who They Are, Why They Clash, How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work. New York: Harper Collins
  • Marroquin, Louis. (2007, February). What About Today? Private Clubs, 26-32
  • Vineyard, Sue & Steve McCurley. (2001). Best Practices for Volunteer Programs. Darien, Heritage Arts Publishing
  • Volunteers by type of main organization for which volunteer activities were performed and selected characteristics, September 2006 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.t04.htm)
  • Wintz, Leigh. “Perspectives on Membership Development.” In E-Volunteerism. Retrieved January 3, 2006 from www.e-volunteerism.com/subscriber/quarterly/05oct/

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the Short-Term Volunteer Program, (now available in downloadable PDF format) by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Miinue Answer Book


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.


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