Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

There’s been a series of posts about the future of service in America on the Fast Company Co.EXIST blog.  I’m working on catching up to read them.  The first article was Making Volunteering More Popular By Making It More Relevant, written by Rachael Chong.

The author points out, with a link to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on volunteering in the US for 2011,

Last year, 26.3% of Americans volunteered, but only 1.8% of Americans volunteered their professional skills

Chong asserts that volunteer opportunities “don’t play to the strengths of the majority of Americans.”

–when people don’t have the option to volunteer in a way that draws on their strengths or their skills, when people don’t have the option to volunteer in a way that make sense to them, and when volunteering doesn’t result in an impactful outcome, people volunteer halfheartedly or they don’t volunteer at all.

We need to give volunteering a make over. We need to make volunteering relevant again. Nearly 40% of Americans have white collar jobs, we make it easy for that percent of the population to volunteer their skills. There is certainly a need. The majority of nonprofits struggle to pay for basic professional services like accounting, marketing, communications, design, and technology, to name a few. In fact, 95% of nonprofits say they would like these services pro bono, but don’t know where to go to get them. If so much of the population has these skills to give away, and we’re able to convince these people to volunteer their skills, we have supply to meet this demand. I am confident that more than 1.8% of people want to volunteer their skills. We just need to give them the right opportunities.

Chong’s statement about impactful volunteering is consistent with the desires of baby boomer volunteers.  We are looking for opportunities that use our strengths and skills.

On the other hand, there are challenges for both the nonprofit and volunteer in developing these professional volunteer opportunities.  Chong cites an example that a web developer could use 20 hours to build a basic website to accept web-based donations.  While this is a valuable results, in many cases nonprofits need to look at the capability to sustain projects.  In this example, can staff or other volunteers maintain the website?

What has been your experience in volunteer professional skills?


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There’s no denying it; I’m a boomer volunteer.  Rather than refer you to a good book or article on the subject of which there are many, I’m going to share my experience of being a boomer volunteer.

How am I different from a non-boomer volunteer?  We boomer volunteers tend to:

  • volunteer without a specific schedule
  • work on projects
  • want a meaningful volunteer opportunity
  • be a lifelong learner

All four of the above are true for my volunteer experiences with not-for-profits.  I’ve been fortunate to enough to find nonprofits that to one degree or another have provided volunteer opportunities that meet the four criteria.

How do these criteria affect nonprofits?  I think that they create a challenge.

  • How can a nonprofit manage its workload if volunteers prefer not to sign up for a schedule?
  • How can a nonprofit assign a project to a volunteer and maintain accountability for its results?
  • How can a nonprofit determine whether which assignments may be meaningful to volunteers?
  • Can a nonprofit afford to have volunteers learn “on the job?”

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Boomer Volunteers

I am an active member of the boomer volunteer force.  I am extraordinarily fortunate to have found a nonprofit organization with which I have been able to engage in impactful work.

Since I retired, even before I had heard of the concept of a boomer volunteer, I’ve been interested in the question of involving retirees as volunteers.  I knew that I was interested in doing more than stuffing envelopes, which I found later is a trait of the boomer volunteer.  The problem was that I had no idea of where to find nonprofits that were interested in using my skills.  I didn’t even know where to go to find a list of local nonprofits that I could explore.

This started my research into retirement and volunteerism.  I read Civic Engagement and the Baby Boomer Generation.  I found out that I belong to the group known as boomer volunteers and that my desires for a volunteer experience are not unique.

Years later, I am now reading Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow.    This is a how-to book for nonprofits to re-engineer their organizations to transform from volunteer management to volunteer engagement in order to tap into the boomer volunteer pool.

From my perspective having been in senior management, this book is on target and provides the right steps.  However, my question is:  How does a very small, grassroots nonprofit implement these ideas?  It seems to me that the nonprofits that need volunteers the most are the ones that don’t have the staff and time to go through this logical and organized process.

Indeed a conundrum.  Perhaps there are options in adapting this suggested process.

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