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Baby Boomers "The Golden Age of Volunteering”

27 October 2010 at 11:50 am
Staff Reporter
Aging Baby Boomers will create a golden age of volunteering over the next decade, according to demographer Bernard Salt.

Staff Reporter | 27 October 2010 at 11:50 am


Baby Boomers "The Golden Age of Volunteering”
27 October 2010 at 11:50 am

Aging Baby Boomers will create a golden age of volunteering over the next decade, according to demographer Bernard Salt.

But Salt says Not for Profit organisations will need to learn to manage the expectations of the intelligent and opinionated generation if they are to effectively harness their volunteering potential.

Speaking at the 13th National Conference on Volunteering, Salt says that according to the last census, the peak age for

Bernard Salt says the an 'active retirement' for Baby Boomers has huge potential for volunteering. [Photo: Ryan Witcombe]

volunteering in Australia is 65-79 – with 24% of people in this age bracket volunteering. Salt says that over the next decade, this age group is set to blow out by 800,000 – this means there will be an extra 200,000 people volunteering.

With the average retirement age in Australia at 58, and the average life expectancy hitting 82, there is now a 20 year gap between the retirement and death, something Salt refers to as the ‘sweet spot’ of volunteering.

Salt says as baby boomers approach retirement age, they will not cease activities and will turn to volunteering. He says Not for Profit and other volunteer-involving organisations will need to package and market to this generation and their expectations.

Salt says Baby Boomers are different to generations that have come before them – they are highly educated, articulate and opinionated, and are accustomed to trading, not giving things away for nothing. He says volunteer organisations will have to manage their expectations, and engage with Baby Boomers in a way which recognises their skills.

Looking forward to the next 10 years, Salt says surges in the following demographic groups will also have a big impact for volunteering:

  • Kids – with 70,000 more babies born per year than in 2000, volunteering activities related to children such as school canteens, playgroups and schools will have a greater need.
  • Young Adults – The current surge of international students means that there will be a large number of young adults over the next ten years. For these Gen-Y’s, charitable organisations, conservation and animal welfare organisations will be important causes. Gen Y’s are attracted to sexy volunteering , and with ‘adolescents’ as Salt defines it now stretching until the age of 30, volunteering sits well with this group.

Other demographic challenges facing volunteering includes what Salt describes as a ‘demographic erosion’ across the wheat belt and inland Australia as people move to the coast. He says this will lead to an increasing need for volunteers are services are eroded.

He says Australia’s changing ethnic makeup, with higher levels of migration from Asia rather than more traditional sources, means Not for Profit organisations will need to be aware of changing Australian culture.

Bernard Salt is a social demographer and a partner at KPMG. Volunteering Australia’s National Conference is on in Melbourne until October 29.

Follow all the news from the Volunteering Australian National Conference on twitter (#va2010).

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  • says:

    Occasionally one of my private clients (I operate a retirement planning consultancy) – who generally fit the deomographic mentioned by Bernard Salt – might seek my guidance about volunteering as an “encore career”.

    Mu advice – distilled over time – is that they should market themselves to potential nonprofit employers on the basis that they are looking for a part-time (job share) unpaid employment, in a role that requires decsion making.

    Bernard Kelly – Australia’s Retirement Strategist

  • FaulcoPete says:

    Australia is unique for its level of volunteerism and retirees are the backbone of volunteerism. The extraordinary level of retirees participating as volunteers as part of their active retirement is one result of having a long but productive retirement. Consequently, the old age dependency is no more of a social burden than for earlier generations; rather it just occurs later. As such, it puts the lie to the drive for immigration to solve our ‘ageing problem’, an non-existent problem. And of course immigration in anything like our current ramped up levels is still not enough to markedly change our age structure. Also, Bernard Salt is not a demographer. He has previously had to admit as much.. He is a spokesman for pro-growth big business.

  • Anonymous says:

    There is a growing trend for not for profits to target specific skills to create a skilled volunteer workforce. For many functions, including emermgency response, I view this as essential given the communities effected count on agencies to support and respond effectively. To do this upskilling & training is required from organisations but a minimum commitment to meetings, training & the likes is required from volunteers. In this sense we should be recruiting a volunteer into a not for profit in the same way as a staff. How do you sell ‘sexy’ to gen y when an emergency isn’t always Black Saturday but could be a little less dramatic???……..They just won’t turn up if the emergency isn’t big enough. And how do you get that level of commitment from a baby boomer when they have previously been treated by agencies in a warm and fuzzy sense?? To respond to an emergecy appropriately volunteers need to commit to an organsiaiton and want to complete the tasks at hand. They need to take accountability of their actions and answer to the community……. will the baby boomers embrace this or boo this as traditionally organisations have bent to the volunteer. This is asking the opposite. Interested to hear how to tap into these mind sets and place them strategically in a volunteer workforce.

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