Family volunteering comes with a new exciting way of producing impact – getting people from different generations on board. That leaves volunteer coordinators with an exciting task – approaching volunteers also with a view on their specific age and interests. Volunteering is for everyone, but not everyone will exhibit the same motivations! But how can coordinators make the most from a volunteering experience? By taking a closer look at the generations that are being involved in the volunteering programme, organizations can craft a more personalised experience and enhance people’s desire to contribute and get involved on the long term. 

When it comes to what makes people from across generations tick and how is motivation different from one generation to the other, there are significant differences, but also wonderful similarities. There are countless studies that go deeper into the specifics of every generation! But how can organizations use this information in their favor, especially in family volunteering programs? Just to give you a glimpse, here are top three tips and tricks on how to engage volunteers from different generations in your programs:

Generation Z – Born 1997- no endpoint has been set

  • Studies say that when it comes to volunteering Gen Z is focused on their humanitarianism and altruistic beliefs – they “yearn for a satisfying and fulfilling professional life” and they choose to volunteer ”in order to obtain relevant knowledge and skills for refining future career objectives”. It is extremely important that organizations recognize these needs and meet them through their volunteering programs. This motivation can be taken into consideration by creating volunteering opportunities that help youngsters become familiar with different areas such as communication, fundraising, recruitment or any other field that can turn into a profession. By giving them tasks that encourage them to experiment and find out what they like, or even by giving them the chance to get better in a certain area, they can start seeing volunteering as a great context for growth!
  • Gen Z’s have a different way of perceiving authority figures – they want to connect and see their leaders as friends and they tend to disclose personal information as a way of creating closer relationships. Volunteer coordinators should pay attention to this, by creating a friendly bond with them and by trying to get to know who they are.
  • Feedback is needed and appreciated! This was a generation that grew up with technology and fast feedback in a lot of different forms – likes, comments, reactions. They are used to receiving immediate feedback! Volunteers coordinators should also know that they prefer more frequent, short and on the spot feedback, that very elaborated activity reviews that take a lot of time.

Millennials – Born 1981-1996 (Sometimes listed as 1980-2000)

  • Millennials volunteer for self improvement, both personal and professional! But they also ”like to identify and associate with different organizations, people, places”. Associations help them construct their social image and enhance their sense of self, while offering them status and even prestige. They will be attracted to organizations that have a strong mission or a social status. When working with millennials organizations should focus on the values and shared beliefs – doing so will make people from this generation to become more invested in their activity!
  • Millennials have a soft spot for seeing what their work can produce – “seeing the impact of their time and talent reaffirms their commitment to give back”.  Volunteer coordinators can periodically discuss with millennials how their particular work is connected to a greater, bolder vision. Tell them not only what they have to do, but also how their contribution is deeply tied to the mission of the organization or how what they tackle during their volunteering activity can change for the better the lives of the beneficiaries the organization is serving! 
  • Variety and feedback can also boost their performance! Millennials see frequent feedback as a way of keeping the eyes on the end goals and address problems or difficulties as they arise. Combine this with diverse tasks or responsibilities, it will keep them engaged and curious about what comes next, which will only encourage their long term commitment!

Generation X – Born 1965-1980 (Sometimes listed as 1965-1979)

  • The most important ingredient when it comes to engaging Gen X volunteers is… flexibility! Their life gets pretty busy between managing their family lives and their professional endeavors so organizations should really pay attention to this when setting up a volunteering programme addressed to them! It is extremely valuable for them to have flexible volunteering hours or activities in order to have them fully invested in a cause. They might be the perfect match for on-call or seasonal volunteering opportunities. 
  • They appreciate fluid access to information and leadership – volunteer coordinators should give them easy access to people in charge and should remove hierarchical approaches when it comes to them! Make sure they don’t have to go through a lot of procedures or people in order to find answers to their questions!
  • They like getting things done – “they expect immediate gratification and can get frustrated if they perceive that they are working hard but not making progress toward their goals.” If they are involved in a medium or long term volunteering program, make sure you break goals into shorter milestones to create momentum and help them see results all throughout their involvement activity.

Baby Boomers – Born 1946-1964 (Sometimes listed as 1943-1964) 

  • Baby boomers will engage in volunteering “as a means to remain active, use their skills, and pursue interests that they have not previously had time to do.”  They enjoy using their knowledge and in the right roles they can be quite the resource for an organization. Usually they have a limited amount of time at their disposal, so organizations must make sure they place them in roles they feel useful! Then can be extremely suitable for mentorship roles or positions that require sharing 
  • They don’t respond well to recruitment campaigns or programs that put emphasis on their ageing process –  organizations should stay away from words such as elderly, retiree, retired people, seniors. Instead, it’s recommended focusing on giving back through their experience and their valuable wisdom. This will make volunteering announcements more popular in this generation!
  • They respond very well to acknowledgement and recognition – it motivates them to get involved even more! Public recognition can also be important for them. Volunteer coordinators can choose to establish campaigns such as “the volunteer of the week”, to credit their Baby boomer volunteers’ hard work. They also like a little competition, so gamification systems would probably work wonders for them!

There is a lot of information out there regarding generations and how to make the most of the collaboration with them, but we hope that these tips and tricks will make volunteer coordinators more curious to explore this topic! However, coordinators should be mindful of the fact that a generation does not fully define a person! Some volunteers may fit perfectly into the descriptions above, but you will certainly encounter exceptions. Our encouragement is to get to know the volunteers you work with and to use the descriptions above as a starting point. Navigating intergenerational family volunteering programs may seem like a very big challenge, but we truly believe that family volunteering has the opportunity to bring out the best in people of all ages!

Article written by Mădălina Boțu, Pro Vobis

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