Turn ons. I work with hundreds of volunteers. What they tell me is this:
Though busy, they will make time to volunteer - for reasons bigger than themselves and for self-actualizing reasons too. But it's the experience that counts most. Volunteers want experiences that do all, not just one or two of these:
1. Produce good and valued outcomes
2. Relate to their personal interests and passions
3. Make them feel good about making a contribution
4. Offer enjoyable experiences; work that's fun or some fun mixed in with the work
5. Are structured for small, short burst time commitments on flexible schedules; ad hoc is preferred over ongoing or long term
There's a definite decline in leader-volunteerism in associations. I think that's because those experiences just aren't measuring up to the more 'satisfying' volunteer experience options.
When it comes to generational issues, there aren't as many as doomsayers would have you believe. The personal time deficit knows no age boundaries. Tolerance for unfulfilling work is low across all generations. Desire for meaningful, rewarding experiences is ageless. Caring is not age-specific; it is values-specific. The generational differences among our volunteers are not so much in values or dedication but very much so in work style preferences and expectations about the volunteer experience.
One of the answers is, I think, a need to blend work styles for multi-generational volunteer workforces. Either/or doesn't cut it. Blending means catering to the whole spectrum of generational preferences; personally selectable:
· Communication methods - high-tech and low-tech
· Information intake modes - layered information, accessible 24/7/365
· Collaboration modes and venues - face-to-face and social media
Recruiting? Statistically, here's what the prospects look like based on the most recent statistics on volunteerism from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics based on volunteer activities in 2010.
The most likely to volunteer were those in the 35-to-44 age group. Young people in their early 20s were least likely to volunteer. While whites continue to volunteer at a higher rate than other ethnic groups, the rate of volunteering among whites and blacks dropped slightly, while the rate among Hispanics and Latinos remained static.
Married people volunteered more than divorced and never-marrieds, although as would be expected, volunteerism among parents with young children volunteer less often, and when they do they give less time.
In the 25 and over group, 42.3 percent of college graduates volunteered, compared with 17.9 percent of high school graduates and 8.8 percent of those with less than a high school diploma.
The median for annual hours volunteered was about 52; ranging from a high of 96 hours for those in the 65+ age group to a low of 40 hours for those in the 16-24 year age group.
Most volunteers were involved with either one or two organizations. The main organization where they worked the most hours was most frequently religious, followed by educational or youth services where parents with young children volunteer most heavily, then by social or community services. And a trend I find most disturbing is that among the lowest levels of volunteerism were for professional associations and societies, civic and political organizations. I'm thinking that these types of organizations may not be providing a satisfying volunteer experience, especially in terms of the five turn-ons noted above.
Targeting the most likely volunteers can certainly guide recruiting. It's my bet, however, that recruiting will become exponentially easier with each inroad we make to enhance the volunteer experience.