NFPs Must Make Better Use of Baby Boomer Volunteers
26 March 2007 at 12:31 pm
The surge of Baby Boomers will increase volunteering by older adults by 50% by the year 2020 – and double the number of older adult volunteers by the year 2036, according to a new US report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Described as the first-ever study to track volunteering among a large sample of Baby Boomers from year to year, Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering, found that those born between 1946 and 1964 want higher-skill assignments to keep them engaged, and it advised Not for Profit organisations to re-imagine roles for that emerging crop of volunteers.
The report also found that Baby Boomers are volunteering at higher rates than their predecessors – including the Greatest Generation – and that those who volunteer 12 weeks or more annually are most likely to serve year after year.
It says the Boomer wave signals one of the largest opportunities the Not for Profit sector has ever had to expand its pool of resources.
The report found that three out of every 10 Boomers who volunteer today leave their organisations each year.
It outlined key characteristics that lead to greater retention.
The study found that:
• Boomers in their late 40s to mid-50s are volunteering at higher rates than members of the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation did at the same age. Boomers were volunteering at lower rates than their predecessors while in their 30s, but that trend has reversed.
• Three volunteer activities appear to hold considerable appeal for Boomers. In particular, 75% of Baby Boomer volunteers who engage in professional activities – such as managing people or projects – continue volunteering the following year. Activities with the second and third highest volunteer retention rates were music or some other type of performance (70.9%) and tutoring, mentoring and coaching (70.3%).
• Volunteering appears to be a virtuous cycle – the more often Baby Boomers volunteer the more likely they are to volunteer again. Volunteers who serve 12 or more weeks per year have a volunteer retention rate of 79% vs. 53% for those who serve two or fewer weeks per year.
• Baby Boomer volunteers who engage in general labour or supply transportation regularly drop out of volunteering (with only 55.6% continuing to volunteer the next year).
• Underscoring the important connection between working and volunteering, the report found that remaining in the workforce increases the likelihood that a Baby Boomer will continue to volunteer: 60.5% of Baby Boomer volunteers who leave the workforce continue to volunteer the following year, compared to 69.3% of those who experience no change in their labour status.
• Baby Boomers increasing their work hours are slightly more likely to continue volunteering compared to those who decrease their work hours (71.6% vs 68.4%). If many Baby Boomers retire later and work longer than past generations (working into their 70s), as some studies indicate, that trend could actually translate into a larger number of older volunteers.
The report urges Not for Profit organisations to examine their charitable and human resources models for retention – cultivating volunteers the way an organisation would a donor and providing professional development as many employers do for their staff.
Baby Boomers’ relatively high volunteer rate today is tied to their education level and propensity to have children later in life. Previous studies have found education and having children are two key predictors of volunteer levels, which accounts in part for the fact that the volunteer rate for Baby Boomers is peaking later in life than past generations.
Once their children leave, Baby Boomers could maintain relatively high volunteer rates because of their higher education levels, expectations that they will work later in life than previous generations, and good health.
The Corporation for National and Community Service in the US aims to improve lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov