Why are boomers the future of volunteering? First, because of their sheer size: boomers represent about 77 million potential volunteers. They also have longevity on their side; this group has an average life expectancy of 83 years. That, coupled with higher levels of income and savings than earlier waves of retirees, suggest they have both the time and resources for volunteering.
Could you benefit from boomer volunteers? Here are some tips to help recruit them:
- Boomers may be highly resistant to a group that includes the previous generation. They may be highly resistant to words like “senior”, “older adult”, “golden years”, “mature adult”, etc. Be creative – anecdotal evidence shows that “experienced” may appeal to this demographic. “Experienced” avoids negative connotations associated with aging and highlights the fact that you value their experience and skills.
- Be highly aware of the images used in materials targeted towards boomers. According to the Boomer Project national survey, boomers see themselves as being at least 12 years younger than their chronological age. Images of individuals they perceive as “elderly” may be unappealing to boomers – they want to see people who reflect their own self-image.
- Consider using words other than “volunteer” which is often associated with negative images of PTA lunches or menial tasks unappealing to boomers. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center came up with the name “Pro-Bono Consultants” after several volunteers felt as if they were continuing their professional work – but in an unpaid capacity.
- According to the Harvard study, Reinventing Aging, boomers are less likely to volunteer out of a response to civic duty or obligation. For goal-oriented boomers, a message shows how they can make a difference in their community is more effective.
- Boomers may need to have a sense of “what’s in it for me?” Recent studies have shown the health benefits of volunteering, as well as the social benefits that may be important as boomers leave the workplace.
- Bear in mind that boomers may never fully “retire” – they express a strong interest in continuing part-time work or self-employment. Even a boomer who works a few hours a year may not consider themselves “retired” – tailor you messages, as well as your opportunities, accordingly.
Do you work with boomer volunteers? Share your experience and tips in the comments!