nonprofit and volunteer programs are grappling with the loss of “wisdom” from
its elders. Retirement looms for many with deep experience
and knowledge. The volunteer corps in many organizations will
lose not baby boomers, but those in their early and mid-80s. The
knowledge about launching annual events, knowing where the extra
chairs are stored, and having connections with businesses in the
community will be lost.
The younger generations are “job” hoppers
and so their level of knowledge might be good for the short run and for innovative
projects, but cannot be relied on for depth of experience. How to bridge
the knowledge gap is the challenge.
Activities and communication
is different for older people from their ‘messaging’ grandchildren. Here
are some hints on how to pass along significant information and share the secrets. Begin
by knowing the difference in communication from generation to generation.
Those born from 1925-1945 and 1946-1964
are most comfortable in a formal communication and printed texts. They
are more verbal than visual in their communication style.
The Gen X generation born between 1965 – 1979 prefer informal
communication, but can manage the formal classroom. They
are very action oriented, wanting to focus on real solutions to
problems. This first computer generation is more visual than
The 1980-1997 generation (Gen Y or the
Millennial's) is a product of the computer age. They enjoy
working in a team process and through networks. They prefer
doing things their own way, rather than being told how to do
There are ways to transfer information from
one generation to the next. Here are some tips:
Acknowledge that the transfer of information from one generation
to another is more complex than ever.
Younger volunteers may prefer to communicate
through ‘messaging,’ rather
than attending a meeting.
Set up blogs for younger volunteers to
share their “wisdom.” Encourage
older computer savvy volunteers to use these sites to share what
Consider a pod cast on the details of volunteer
Communicate in three different ways that is appropriate to each
of the generational groups.
is not simply the act of asking someone to volunteer or putting flyers at a
local library or creating a new Web site or Pinterest page. It is a multi-step
process that builds to engagement. Here are the most elemental parts
of the structure.
Know the needs and what exists now
Maintain a database of current volunteers that includes
contact information, demographic data, and service history
Volunteers and staff are asked about the need for volunteers.
Create a form they can use to request a volunteer
can design their own opportunities for service. Be
There is a plan
There are measurable goals for recruitment each year
The manager (and his/her staff) have annual objectives
and work plans
Activities for volunteers are planned
Tasks, jobs, services of volunteers are tied to needs
of the organization
Volunteer skills and interests
are always considered when designing things for them
A cost/benefit analysis is used whenever it is decided
to engage volunteers in a particular activity.
There are volunteer jobs, services, tasks for a wide
variety of volunteering styles
4. There are descriptions of volunteer duties
There are standard position descriptions for traditional
Episodic volunteers receive short descriptions of tasks
Volunteers who supervise other volunteers
know what is to be done. They have been trained.
Position or service descriptions are reviewed regularly
Services and tasks are designed to attract a variety of
5. We know our service community
The volunteer office maintains information on the demographic
profiles of the potential volunteer pool.
Recruiting is targeted to specific
tasks, service, job; by length of service needed; by demographic
Demographic research is used in planning a recruiting campaign
6. Advertising and Promotion
Recruiting efforts are personal and global to find potential
All types of media are used to recruit
Various volunteer positions are listed on Web sites designed
to recruit online
The organization prominently displays volunteer opportunities
on the homepage of its Web site.
Current and former volunteers are engaged in the recruiting
7. Volunteer Recruiting
The recruiting effort for different styles of volunteers
is guided by a volunteer recruiting team staffed by the manager
of volunteers or designee.
Volunteer office staff views their role as working with
the volunteer recruiting team members as partners, not just
people they tell what to do.