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6 min read

From Recruitment to Retention: Modern Tools that Engage Boomer Volunteers

May 23, 2017

The following post is a collaboration between VolunteerMatch and Connect360 Multimedia — a marketing agency specializing in strategic PSA and integrated marketing campaigns using traditional media, digital, and social media platforms. 

Baby boomers — those born during the post–World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964 — are different from their parents and grandparents in that they will remain healthier, stay active, and live longer than previous generations. Because of this, many boomers look for volunteer opportunities to keep busy, feed into their personal interests, and leverage the skills they’ve learned throughout their careers for social good.

One-quarter of the U.S. population is part of the boomer demographic. As a volunteer manager, it’s vital to incorporate and engage this group as part of your strategic recruitment efforts. Doing so will improve your ability to retain volunteers from a generation that offers a wealth of passion, commitment, and experience.

Boomers who retire are at risk for social isolation — an epidemic that hits close to 60 million Americans and is as life-threatening as obesity. With 45% of women 75+ living alone, we have a commitment to finding relevant ways to engage these constituents through volunteer work in our communities.

Boomer Volunteer Engagement

If you don’t have a boomer recruitment plan in place, begin by asking the right questions about your existing program: what roles and responsibilities can you delegate to boomer volunteers? Where and how can you best recruit this demographic? And how do you retain and keep boomer volunteers engaged with your mission?

According to JFFixler Group, avoid giving them too much too soon; that’s the quickest path to burnout. Pair seasoned volunteers to mentor new volunteers, and be clear about your expectations, communicate often, incorporating flexibility where possible.

Leverage boomers’ life-long learning experiences to create opportunities that are impactful, fulfilling, and sociable. And provide staff with training on inter-generational connectedness (i.e. how to communicate across generations) to avoid any issues related to miscommunication.

Recruiting Boomer Volunteers

Now that we know the importance of engaging this demographic, how do we do so?

It’s important to tailor your recruitment message accordingly. In Marc Freedman’s book titled Prime Time How Baby Boomers will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America, Marc recommends that we promote reconnecting, restarting, and building bridges to the next generation.

That’s one reason VolunteerMatch partner Encore.org created GenerationtoGeneration.org, a volunteer matching portal that connects seniors age 55+ with volunteer opportunities to mentor and tutor youth in their community. “Children and youth” and “education and literacy” volunteer opportunities posted on VolunteerMatch — that are also good for seniors (volunteers age 55+) — are mirrored to GenerationtoGeneration’s website seamlessly.

According to AARP, 60% of 40+ internet users are willing to take part in at least one volunteer-related activity through the web and one-fifth of this age group is willing to download a mobile app to locate volunteer opportunities in their area. Therefore, the use of the internet, social media, and mobile technology is key for engaging boomer volunteers online.

Here are five modern tools to consider as part of your strategy:

  • Social Media

According to Sprout Social, 65% of Generation Xers, as well as baby boomers, say Facebook is their favorite social network. Despite the myth that “older” online users aren’t tech savvy, more than two-thirds are social media regulars with a real willingness to learn about volunteer opportunities through the web.Recruiting volunteers, looking to grow your organization’s fans & followers, and/or drive targeted viewers to your website? Social media engagement through Facebook and Twitter ads enables you to cost-effectively reach your target audience through precise demographic and geographic targeting enhancements.

  • Video Pre-Roll

Consuming video factors across all age demos and boomers are very much a part of the video streaming landscape.

Based on a recent comScore report, 84% of boomers watch video online every month. The development of mobile technology has enabled boomers to stream video anytime on any device (a Nielsen Global Digital Landscape Survey estimates that 34% of boomers streaming video content on mobile devices), giving nonprofits a clear path to get their messages across to boomers in real-time as they watch their favorite programs online.

Do you ever choose a video to stream and see a 30-second ad that you have to watch before your video? That’s pre-roll, and it’s an effective way to recruit and engage your core audience online.

Organizations such as Connect360 analyze content a video viewer might be inclined to watch, revealing their interests and enabling Connect360 to place highly relevant video right before. By also layering in specific keywords and content categories that match the content of your video, Connect360 can hyper-target video inventory and place your pre-roll to precisely reach the right audience for your message. In other words, your boomer volunteer-targeted message is streamed to the right people at the right time.

  • Demographic and Geographic Targeting Technology

Have you ever shopped online for something specific or searched for information and then as you move around the web, see ads displayed that pertain to exactly what you were looking for?

Sounds like “big brother is watching you,” but as far as online marketing technology is concerned, it’s a highly effective tactic for nonprofits to use in targeting their key donors and volunteers. Search intent technology, site retargeting, and behavioral targeting allow organizations to pinpoint the exact individuals that fit their audience profiles when they’re engaged online.

  • Online Radio

One key strategy to consider in recruiting volunteers is using mobile radio. Boomers today are “on-the-go,” and the use and popularity of streaming audio platforms such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify offer another vehicle for nonprofits to tailor their message through quick audio soundbites to boomers’ personal hand-held devices. The prevalence of mobile audio use among boomers is exploding, so it is important to take steps to incorporate online radio apps into your volunteer recruitment strategy.

Beyond digital and social media platforms, the use of broadcast media is also critical when it comes to engaging boomers. Compared to their younger cohorts, boomers consume television and radio more often. This is not surprising considering they have relied on traditional media for news and entertainment for most of their lives.

According to Nielsen Media Research, during Q4 2015, boomers spent 184 hours per month consuming live + DVR TV, compared to 132 hours for Gen X and 95 hours for millennials. When it comes to radio, boomers spent nearly 69 hours per month consuming AM/FM radio, compared to 61 hours for Gen Xers and 51 hours for millennials.

  • PSAs

One of the most effective ways to target audiences via broadcast media is through the use of Public Service Announcements (PSAs). PSAs are aired regularly by TV and radio stations across the country to fill unsold commercial airtime and as a community service to organizations.

Contrary to popular belief, PSAs aren’t just aired during overnight hours. Connect360’s PSA airings data confirms usage during key timeframes such as daytime, afternoon/early fringe, and even primetime. Because PSA airtime is donated by stations, and PSAs are often kept on the air by stations for up to one year or longer, they offer a great way to obtain earned media coverage over the long-term, while creating awareness for volunteer causes among boomers and other audiences.

Bringing it Full Circle

With social isolation being a large issue, incorporate small events and opportunities to interact and get-to-know one another. Even something as small as noting down boomers’ birthdays and sending them a note on their special day will make them feel appreciated. As with any volunteer, match their efforts with your impact, and reward your volunteers for a job well-done.

By utilizing the right mix of recruitment tactics customized for boomers, your organization can connect with an entire generation of potential volunteers who not only have the time to dedicate to causes, but also bring valuable wisdom and experience to the table.

Basil Sadiq

Written by Basil Sadiq

Basil helps nonprofits and volunteers engage better with one another by posting impactful tips and sharing stories on VolunteerMatch.org, Engaging Volunteers, GoodCauses Newsletter, and VolunteerMatch’s social media platforms.