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Volunteer Power News - Number 119
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2013 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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Featured Article: Why Have You Ignored Gen X as Volunteers?
Why Have You ignored Gen X as Volunteers?
Thomas McKee

"Since statistically 35-44 year olds have the greatest percentage of volunteers of all age groups, why are you ignoring this generation? You just focus on millennials and boomers. Why?" This is the question I was asked last month at a Q and A at the end of a workshop.

It's actually a very insightful question. At first glance, the statistics seem to indicate that generation X is number one in volunteering. Look at a quick summary of the report from Volunteering in the United States-Bureau of Labor of Statistics-2012:
  • Over thirty one percent (31.6%) of 35- to 44-year-olds volunteered in 2012.
  • Volunteer rates were lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.9 percent).
  • For persons 45 years and over, the volunteer rate tapered off as age increased.
  • Teens (16- to 19-year-olds) had a volunteer rate of 27.4 percent.
But the above numbers don't tell the complete story. There are other indicators that lead us to look at other generations when recruiting.

First, since the question at my Q and A was focusing on numbers, let's look at some numbers-the total number of Gen Xers in the U.S.

They are the smallest generation, according to Jeff Gordinier in his book, How Generation X Got the Shaft, But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking,
  • Baby Boomers -- 76 million
  • Millennials -- 80 million
  • Generation X is sandwiched between them with 46 million.
Evidently boomers were not having children, and therefore Gen X is the smallest generation, according to Gordinier. If you just want to look at the field of potential volunteers from a numerical point of view, there is a lot more picking of low fruit from the boomers and millennials.

But second, speaking of the number of volunteers, just where are the 31.9% volunteering?

We need to keep reading the findings of the Volunteering in the United States-Bureau of Labor of Statistics-2012 to discover what kind of volunteer activities that Gen X are doing.
  • The main organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours was religious (33.1 percent of all volunteers).
  • The second type of volunteering was in an educational or youth service related organization (25.5 percent).
  • Next were social or community service organizations (14.2 percent).
  • Among volunteers with children under 18 years old, 46.2 percent of mothers and 38.8 percent of fathers volunteered mainly for an educational or youth service organization, such as a school or scouting group.
  • Volunteers without children under age 18 were more likely than parents to volunteer for other types of organizations, such as social or community service organizations, hospitals or other health organizations, and religious organizations.
These numbers are why I call the 35-44 year olds the 'non-volunteer volunteer'. This generation is characterized by multiple demands on their time. They are in the midst of ladder-climbing and career-advancement pressure in addition to being parents of children and teenagers. If you analyze their volunteer activities, they include activities such as church youth groups, scouts, coaching, and school activities. They volunteer because in order for their children to be involved, they are either required or feel the social pressure to be involved. One of my readers from Ireland shared that youth groups all over Ireland draw up "rotas of parents," a U.K. term meaning a register of names showing the order in which people take their turn to perform certain duties (See the occasional volunteer). He was doing all he could to fight that trend and engage a core of passionate volunteers to run one of their youth groups. But it was difficult because so many people would only get involved because they felt they had to, no one else would, or because they wanted something for their children that no one else was providing. Almost inevitably such people cease volunteering when their own children age out of the group. Sound familiar? Many youth groups face this problem.

Sarah Sanford, the director of membership for the Girls Scouts of Central California, reports the following:

Although Girl Scouts just celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and the organization continues to see strong interest from girls, it has struggled to meet demand because of a lack of adult volunteers willing to become troop leaders. In the 18-county area of Central California, there are 28,276 girls in 2,200 troops, with 10,000 registered adult members. Out of the adult members, about 3,000 work directly with the girls, while the remainder mostly parents help out occasionally. Sarah says that they lose 28 percent of their adult members each year, and they have an immediate need of close to 600 volunteers. . . . She recognizes that people today don't have as much time to volunteer. People are busier, and more moms are working. (Source: Sacramento Bee, Girl Scouts Volunteering)

Why do 28 percent quit each year? It is probably because their daughters are no longer Girl Scouts and the non-volunteer volunteer parent is no longer interested. This may not be the total reason, but I'm thinking it is probably the number one reason.

So who are the best prospects-the low hanging fruit-for recruiting volunteers?

Don't waste your time in trying to recruit the very busy, overworked, Gen X, non-volunteer volunteers who are already volunteering because of their children.

Instead go for the following:
  1. Empty nesters who are going through a huge transition of just sending their last child off to college, army or out of the house. This transition time needs to be filled with something-why not make it your organization? And actually the empty nester is probably an early-born Gen Xer (age 45-55).

  2. The 18 + year olds who are interested in a social mission. They have the time, energy and often the interest. Ask them, especially if you are recruiting for a youth organization such as scouts, 4-H or a church.

  3. The recently retired person. I just noted a post on a Facebook page from one of my friends from high school days, "I just got a part-time job because I'm so bored with retirement." My wife just retired from years of teaching at a university, and the transition has had some challenges. But she is volunteering at a local food bank once a week and volunteering with international students another day of the week (she was so ripe for being recruited).

  4. Look at the book- end generations-millennials and boomers, especially if you are working with a youth organization. They are hot prospects. When Sarah Sanford was asked if there are any misconceptions about being a Girl Scout troop leader, she answered, "You don't have to be a mom, and you don't have to have children of your own. People believe that they have to have a daughter in Girl Scouts before they can apply, but they don't . . . it's truly open to everyone."
Let's not forget the words of David Isner, former CEO of The Corporation for National and Community Service, in his farewell speech delivered at Georgetown University.

Baby boomers are today volunteering at rates that exceed volunteering among this age group over past decades by as much as 50 percent. More importantly, this best educated, healthiest, wealthiest, and longest lived generation we've ever seen will conservatively double the number of older Americans volunteering within the next ten to twenty years. And, as we chart our course toward becoming a Service Nation, if the Boomers are the wind in our sails, the millennial generation is nothing short of a turbo speedboat engine.


Volunteer Power Key-Notes, Workshops,
Or An Education Day
Unleashing the Power and Passion of
A Whole New Breed of Volunteer

A Volunteer Power Workshop
Recruiting and leading the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Volunteers are passionate and the strategic challenge for leaders of volunteers is to know how to awaken this passion for our cause, and then mobilize passionate people for our cause. This is difficult because passionate people are often a pain.

These three workshops are filled with learning activities, case studies, and short video clips for discussion.

Keynote Presentation: The New Breed of Volunteer

The New Breed of Volunteer is very different from the 20th century volunteer. In this keynote presentation you will discover what the 21st century volunteer expects and what you must do if you want to recruit and lead the new breed of volunteer. We can't expect them to change, so we must know how to adapt our leadership style. Some of the characteristics of the New Breed of Volunteer are:
  • Are passionate
  • Are episodic
  • Are slacktivists
  • Are knowledge workers -don't want to stuff envelopes
  • Are a busy
  • Are in a hurry
  • Are often either technologically dependent or technologically hopeless
But I do not leave you wondering what to do. I will demonstrate how to recruit and lead the New Breed of Volunteer, by showing you the best practices that groups are using to take advantages of these seismic shifts in volunteer engagement.

Follow-Up Workshop: The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers

When we wrote the book, The New Breed, recruiting and leading the 21st Century Volunteer, in our research (and over 60 combined years of experience in leading volunteers), we identified the biggest mistakes that volunteer leaders are making in recruiting volunteers. In this workshop we will learn how easy it is to fall into the temptation of these traps, and what we must do to have a successful recruiting and screening process. The top mistakes were the following, which we have now labeled the Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting:
  1. Expect announcements to get volunteers (The difference between marketing and sales)
  2. Ask for marriage instead of a date (How to awaken the passion of a future volunteer for your ministry)
  3. Think that "NO" means "NO" (how to turn a "NO" into a "YES" without sounding like a high-pressure sales person.
  4. Go it alone (Building a recruiting network)
  5. Ignore the book-end generation (Gen Y and retiring boomers)
  6. Fall into the BIC syndrome (I need ten volunteers today)
  7. Use the four words that volunteers hate: Oh, By the Way
Follow-Up Workshop: Unleashing the Passion of the New Breed of Volunteer

The content of the workshop focuses on how 21st century leaders must mobilize the unlimited power and passion of volunteers. Participants of the workshop will learn how to focus the energy of passionate volunteers. It's less about "management" and more about "empowerment." The participants will probe these topics:

Leadership strategies to unleash the passion
  • What is passion?
  • What destroys passion?
  • Why is passion not enough?
  • How to you keep the passion alive?
  • Coaching: The four phases of performance coaching
  • Coaching tools: Direction and trust (how to use these tools)
  • Empowerment; The five steps of empowerment
Contact us to book a workshop, key-note presentation.



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