Knowing Generational Differences Can Help Engage Your Volunteers

Guest post by Steve Page

Volunteers are one of the best ways to grow your organization year after year. Once you have identified roles your volunteers will be assigned, the key to a successful volunteer experience is keeping your volunteer network engaged.

What’s the best way to do that?

Create a strategic plan for your volunteer program. Though it will take some time, dedicating a few hours to figuring how volunteers can best serve your organization is absolutely necessary for its success.

Reaching and Recruiting Volunteers

The most underutilized way to recruit volunteers is through word of mouth. Supporters of your cause, whether or not they have previously volunteered with your organization, should be able to serve as brand ambassadors, talking about the great work you’re doing and the impact that you’re having.

Positive word of mouth is the best way to inspire others who want to get involved and give back. Remember, a really good volunteer experience goes a long way. If people have a positive or negative experience with you, they are going to talk about it in person and online.

Encourage volunteers and supporters to share your message, volunteer program information, photos and videos through channels that reach and target every demographic. The more supporters you have, the larger the network your organization will reach.

Check out this useful generational giving infographic showing how the four key demographic segments in the US give, as well as how to effectively engage each through the channels they prefer.

MillennialsMillennials (born 1980-1995)

Millennials are perpetually connected to their mobile devices, making mobile the most effective channel for this demographic to engage, volunteer and donate.

Millennials are turning out to a be a charitable bunch and are mostly motivated by passion for a cause, not just the organization itself.

85% of millennials give to charity, but you have to approach them differently than other demographics. The same holds true for volunteering.

The millennial impact benchmarks report suggests that nonprofits take a “mobile first” approach to engage with millennials. This means target them where they spend their time: on their mobile phones, via text message and on social media.

A great way to do this is by sending text messages and posting volunteer requests across social media. Encourage potential millennial volunteers to make an event out of their volunteer experience by inviting friends, taking pictures and sharing their experience across social channels.

Gen XGen X (born 1965-1979)

Generation X’ers can still be reached through email, but they are more likely to regularly check social media or text messages than the generation before.

According to a Pew Research Center study on smartphone ownership, 80% of adults between the ages 30-49 own a smartphone — the second largest generational group to do so — and 59% give to charity.

Gen X’ers also volunteer more than any other generation. In fact 30% of Gen X’ers volunteer their time to nonprofits, so encouraging them to volunteer with your organization will likely be easier than other generations. This is a huge opportunity for nonprofits because volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity than non-volunteers.

Baby BoomersBaby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

Baby boomers regularly answer voice calls and check email, however, in recent years, they have also adopted mobile and social media technology at a rapid rate. On average, baby boomers spend 19 hours a week online and 71% use a social networking site daily. These numbers are likely to continue growing year after year.

Baby boomers are the most generous of all generations, giving an annual average of $1,212 per person across 4.5 organizations. Recurring giving is the norm for a lot of baby boomers, who make up 21% of all monthly donors.

Baby boomers are likely to do volunteer work for organizations they are actively involved with. Consider asking baby boomers to volunteer at events or fundraisers they may already be interested in attending.

Greatest GenerationGreatest Generation (born before 1945)

The Greatest Generation are engaged through a friendly phone call or letter in the mailbox. It is difficult to reach this group via text messages and social media but some are starting to use email.

Don’t count them out for all online activity! A 2013 Pew Research Center Study found that 70% of adults 65 and older use the internet on a daily basis.

88% of this generation give to charity: the highest annual average donations amount per person compared to other demographics. So if you are looking to ask for donations or recruit volunteers for your organization, be sure to experiment with online outreach as well using the traditional methods like a phone call or direct mail.

They’re also happy participating in the volunteer opportunities your organization has to offer. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than one in four older adults volunteers each year.

Your organization should be communicating and marketing across the appropriate online and offline channels to engage each and every generation of supporters. Using a segmented approach to supporter communication is the best way to create an effective experience for both recruiting and engaging volunteers.

Now that you know how to engage all generations using the appropriate marketing channels, you’ll be able to amplify both your volunteer programs and fundraising ideas.


Author bio: Steve Page is a blogger, marketer, and webmaster for MobileCause, the world’s leading mobile and online fundraising platform. MobileCause helps organizations reach their goals with a full suite of mobile-friendly solutions that allow donors to connect and give to your cause from any device. When he’s not working at MobileCause, Steve can usually be found helping organizations with their websites, learning the latest marketing trends or working on his golf game.

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