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Younger volunteers want more interesting jobs

Younger volunteers want more interesting jobs

Following up on our story about getting rid of old people to make room for younger ones is this story “Can we get some volunteers, please?”:

The latest figures show that 23.4 million age 45 to 64 volunteered last year, down from 23.9 million in 2011. The percentage who volunteered dropped to 29.3 percent, from 30.6 percent, for those age 45 to 54 and to 27.6 percent, from 28.1 percent, for Americans 55 to 64.

There’s no simple explanation, of course. We’re busy. We need to focus on hanging onto our jobs. We have obligations to our kids and parents. All true.

But I think a key reason is that many boomers haven’t found ways they can volunteer the way they want to, by putting their talents and skills to use, rather than by stuffing envelopes, answering phones and donating food.

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Cynthia Katsarelis

Those are great ideas, thank you! We are working on some of them. I chair our Outreach Committee, and I’m not doing it until I’m 95! However, we have worked to communicate the volunteer opportunities and show one time items or regular items. We’re starting to ask long time volunteers to help new ones. Many of our tasks are group efforts, so it’s easy to fall in. But new people don’t know that unless you point it out.

What I would like to hear about are successful communication strategies. We have an eBlast (not everyone gets it), a Sunday Bulletin, a website, a Wiki (which isn’t getting enough use), and an occasional Outreach Newsletter. And yet it still seems like a lot of people are in the dark about our outreach and volunteer opportunities – I often hear people say “I wish I knew more about that” when the information has been put out there in a couple of formats. What are the most successful communication strategies you (collectively) know to inform and invite people into participating?

Ann Fontaine

Great ideas, Susan.

Susan Melcher Reed

Inside the church volunteering is, for me as a young adult different than the volunteering I do in other places. I am happy to stuff envelopes, answer phones and donate food – if I have been given enough reason to ‘buy into’ the task. In addition, there is this feeling within the church that when I volunteer for something that I will a) be in charge of it and b) do it from now (age 31) until I’m 95.

Also there is a lack of “drop-in” volunteer opportunities. I might not be able to be at women’s circle every (any) Saturday because of work, but I would love to help with a food drive that they’re doing on a Sunday afternoon or something like that. Young adult schedules are different (and often in flux) and so I am always reluctant to commit to volunteering for something (see above) because I can’t trust my schedule not to change in the next 3-5 days because my work commitments change without my say-so.

What about encouraging some of these older volunteers to take younger persons under their wing and mentor them in creating a volunteer spirit and in finding a way for them to volunteer in the church? I work in a non-profit and we saw volunteerism jump dramatically once we had a centralized person or people who were in charge of our volunteer program. These people always knew where the holes were, they could visit with volunteers and help them figure out where they best fit in and they were easy to notify when a volunteer had to call off. Plus, they could recruit tasks from employees and groups to make sure volunteers were always engaged with something meaningful. Something similar (and not the priest) might be helpful for churches? I think priests are too over-worked to function as volunteer coordinators effectively, although that is clearly some of what they do.

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