Boomer Engagement: Build Your Organization’s Capacity, Even in Times of Scarcity (Part 3)

Editor’s note: Tapping into the growing number of Boomer volunteers (those aged 50 and up) is a leading concern for many nonprofits looking to grow their capacity over the next five to 10 years and beyond. This article is the third in a series of four posts on the subject by experts and guest bloggers, Jill Friedman Fixler and Beth Steinhorn.

By Jill Friedman Fixler and Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler & Associates


boomercoverA few months ago, 62-year old Kristina was a participant in your annual fundraising 5K run. She received a brochure about your organization in her runner’s packet (along with her t-shirt and other free “goodies”) and was impressed to learn how her registration fee would help the kids your organization serves.

She enjoyed the event so much, she thought about organizing a team from the bank where she works as the Human Resources manager to run in it next year. Ten months later, she will receive some emails announcing the next run event, but how might she get involved if approached in the intervening months about other opportunities?

Turning Interest into a Long Term Partnership

In our past two posts, we discussed how engaging collaboratively with skilled Boomer volunteers can build organizational capacity, even in these challenging times, and that, to do so, organizations should start small and encourage innovation through a pilot project focused on harnessing the talents of a few Boomer volunteers.

The key to getting those Boomers into the organization in positions that leverage their talents is to effectively develop high-impact volunteer positions with well-crafted position descriptions. Innovative volunteer roles, flexible schedules, and outcome-focused volunteer positions are especially appealing to Boomers. A well-written description of a Boomer volunteer position is the reference point for negotiation, support, accountability, and evaluation.

Check out the templates included in Boomer Volunteer Engagement for a proven format for developing comprehensive and attractive volunteer positions.

VolunteerMatch also has a good guide to designing opportunities for its network of volunteers here. [PDF]

Where Are They?

How do you find these skilled Boomers? We strongly recommend that nonprofits network and cultivate from within their existing world. How many volunteers, donors, clients, and partners have already demonstrated some support for your organization but have never been asked to deepen their relationship? To start the process of accessing this abundance, we recommend developing a powerful case statement for Boomer volunteer engagement and sharing it with potential volunteers.

Simply asking a few targeted volunteers, “What skills do you have that you would gladly share with our organization if we could make it possible for you to do so?” will yield a treasure trove of unexpected support, energy, and talent. Follow up with a discussion about how those skills align with your nonprofit’s strategic goals and you have made great strides in cultivating your first high-impact volunteers.

Imaging Kristina’s Contribution

Imagine how such a conversation with our runner Kristina might take shape.

As a human resources specialist, she has skills in interviewing, hiring and firing, benefits analysis, training and development, and even organizational development. If volunteer engagement were a strategic priority for the organization, than Kristina could be a valuable asset in helping to interview potential new volunteers, train other volunteers – and staff – to interview effectively and thereby build the organization’s capacity in human resources and volunteer management. She could lead a team of volunteers for the annual run or other events, creating a peer leadership structure and head up a new team of volunteer leaders.

The possibilities are endless and the potential limitless.

Who is already demonstrating support and connection to your organization and could be cultivated for a deeper relationship? How can you most effectively connect with those individuals (online social media, friends and colleagues, events, etc.)? Consider these questions and you are on your way to developing a culture of volunteer engagement. Tune back in two weeks to read our tips on how to sustain this culture in your organization.

For more information, read Jill Friedman Fixler’s book, Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow.

Jill Friedman Fixler, Principle of JFFixler & Associates, is a national consultant on volunteer engagement and author with Sandie Eichberg of Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow. Beth Steinhorn, Associate of JFFixler & Associates, edited the book.