Volunteers age 50+ often have more available time, more experience, greater reliability and a wider peer network than their younger counterparts. If you represent a volunteer organization looking to maximize impact by inspiring more volunteers and increasing retention, the following questions* may be a metric for your future success. Consider how you’d honestly answer each one and find inspiration to make improvements across your entire organization.
Does your organization maintain an age-inclusive environment where everyone feels engaged and respected?
You can help foster and maintain an age-inclusive environment by helping your volunteers understand how their work contributes to your organization’s overall mission. You can also be transparent in your communications, determining how your volunteers like to receive information, (i.e. face to face vs. email), then making sure you follow through. Consider customizing your learning environment to adapt to your volunteers’ needs, as some may prefer to learn on the job rather than by studying manuals or watching videos. And by getting to know and appreciate each of your volunteers for who they are and for the skills they offer you’ll create an environment of mutual respect that can help ensure everyone stays happy and productive.
Have you identified the places and methods to facilitate your messaging?
Outreach is critical to finding qualified volunteer candidates. To appeal to adults age 50+, make it clear that your organization is interested in their talent, skills, knowledge, judgment, patience, persistence and reliability. Keep your tone simple, emotional and inspiring, using imagery that looks like the people you’re trying to engage. Use headlines that are short, targeted and prominent enough to grab attention, such as “Experience Needed. Yours!” In addition to maintaining a current website and posting openings on social media outlets such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, post information in local businesses and public places such as grocery stores, libraries, banks or community health centers where adults 50+ are likely to be.
Does your onboarding and training program meet the needs and preferences of your volunteer pool?
Adults 50+ walk in the door with skills, approaches, networks and a variety of personal and professional experiences accumulated over several decades. And your plan for retaining this talent begins on day one. Design your training program to acknowledge and leverage what new team members already know, in order to build a foundation for new skills. Some adults 50+ learn best by doing rather than reading or listening, so offer opportunities for hands-on practice and consider offering training over multiple sessions to enable volunteers to more easily process the new information.
Do you offer opportunities for collaboration, leadership and personal growth to help entice and integrate adults age 50+?
Adults 50+ may be looking for ways to enhance existing skills or develop new ones. They may also be a great resource for developing the skills of other staff members or volunteers. You can support team members by offering opportunities for skill development and being open to new ones. Identify skilled managers or coaches and encourage them to help organize a team or serve as mentors. Motivate and continuously inspire your staff by letting them know about the impact they’re making. And create opportunities for your volunteers to share ideas and feedback. This platform supports continuous improvement and helps ensure each of your volunteers has a voice.
Does you rely on committed volunteers to realize your organzation’s mission? Here are a few ideas for letting them know they’re appreciated.