More and more these days, nonprofits are recognizing that older adult volunteers have unique skills that can be useful to social good organizations. On June 29, Beth Steinhorn, Senior Strategist at JFFixler & Associates, spoke about about how nonprofits can use the experiences of the Boomer generation to implement and manage changes to improve their organizations. This was part two of the “Boomer Volunteers Building Capacity” webinar series at VolunteerMatch.
Beth shared her research about volunteering trends in today’s economy. She discussed how nonprofits can change their struggles with a lack of volunteering resources from “never enough” to abundance by better utilizing skilled volunteers to increase financial stability.
One way to improve volunteer productivity is to tip the scales from volunteer management to volunteer engagement. That is, allow volunteers to collaborate in projects as team managers and consultants.
The Boomer generation is an ideal group from which to recruit these volunteers because they are entrepreneurial minded, well versed in networking, and familiar with economic instability in the nonprofit sector. This model of volunteerism allows organizations to build past what the staff alone can accomplish.
Beth outlined three types of volunteers: those who are deeply involved within the organization, those who are infrequently involved, and those who are not involved at all. It is more effective to encourage the infrequently involved group to become more engaged than to recruit from the completely uninvolved group. Cultivating from within is often the most successful way to connect with volunteers.
The best way to implement a new model for volunteer engagement is to design specific volunteer projects. For example, you can create a small task force directed towards a specific goal to improve your organization. To hone in on a good pilot program, you can explore which areas would benefit most from volunteers and develop work plans to lay out the steps and goals of the project. An ideal pilot program plays to the strengths of the particular organization.
Of course, no project can succeed without the right people. Each task force should include a “maven,” a trusted expert in the field; a “connector,” someone who knows a lot of people and is good at networking; and a “salesperson,” someone who has a lot of charisma and can convince other people to become involved with and support the project.
To assure longevity and accountability, volunteer task forces can cement support by utilizing progress reports and providing constant feedback. The task force should provide ample opportunities to review, request, change and share different aspects of the work plan.
During the webinar Beth acknowledged that successfully managing changes within an organization can be difficult. She advocated taking small steps and sharing successes widely so as not to undermine the intended outcomes of the task force.
The next segment of the “Boomer Volunteers Building Capacity” webinar series will discuss how to create positions and cultivate leaders, and will occur on July 27 at 12 PM PST. You can learn more about it in the nonprofit Learning Center.
Click here to register for the next Boomer Volunteer Engagement webinar.
Laura Weiss is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.