Boomer Engagement: Build Your Organization’s Capacity, Even in Times of Scarcity (Part 4)

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 last 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



Imagine a world in which your nonprofit has all the resources it needs to serve more clients, deliver more programs, strengthen its staff, spread its message more widely, and increase its financial stability despite a challenging economy.

Envision a future in which your nonprofit has a pool of talented, skilled, and passionate individuals on call to build organizational capacity by serving as consultants, strategists, marketing gurus, ambassadors, innovators, mentors, fundraisers, and direct service teammates who can help you weather this economic storm.

While it may feel like a “flight of fancy” to imagine such a future when so many nonprofits are facing budget cuts, hiring freezes, and reduced fundraising revenue, it’s worth the effort since this future is here, now, at our doorsteps.

The Time Is Now

We hear from our clients and know from the tremendous response on VolunteerMatch that the people are answering the call the service in droves.

That Boomers who thought they were ready to retire are now seeking volunteer opportunities to gain new skills to prepare them to reenter the workforce.

That despite juggling the demands of aging parents and young adult children, Boomers have not lost their passion for making a difference in the world outside their own. The time to harness their skills and leverage their passions is now, more than ever.

In our first three posts we gave tips on how to recognize untapped talent amongst those who are already connected to your nonprofit, how to assess your organizational needs and develop a pilot project to demonstrate the potential of high-impact volunteer engagement, and how to design well-crafted volunteer positions and cultivate individuals to fill them.

Take the Next Step

Once you’ve done so, what’s next? How can you not only ensure a satisfying and productive collaboration between those volunteers and staff, but also leverage that pilot project and expand the model to other areas in the organization. In other words, how can you sustain a culture of volunteer engagement?

Support, Don’t Supervise

With years of work experience as professionals or active volunteers, Boomers seek collegial relationships with staff. They have run businesses and families and have been recognized for achievements in other areas of their lives. They seek the same in their volunteer work.

In order to develop a true staff/volunteer partnership, negotiate with your Boomer volunteer and come to agreement on accountability, timelines, communication, outcomes, and milestones. Develop Individualized Volunteer Plans (available in the 14 downloadable exercises in Boomer Volunteer Engagement) to establish a personalized career track for Boomer volunteers that will keep them motivated and engaged for the longer term.

Develop a Sustainable Culture of Volunteer Engagement

Successful Boomer volunteer engagement pilot programs can be replicated to institutionalize the initiative and build the organization’s capacity. To maintain a sustainable Boomer volunteer engagement model, measure feedback and progress, identify your champions, share your stories with others in the organization, and communicate throughout the process to inspire others to become part of the collaborative culture.

They key is to think big – but start small.  With small innovations in which risk-taking is encouraged, you can demonstrate the power of high-impact volunteer engagement, learn new skills, and demonstrate that you already have all the resources you need to survive and thrive.

Through Boomer volunteer engagement, you can build your organizational capacity beyond what staff alone can accomplish – and beyond what you may have dared to dream before.

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.