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First Time Volunteer? What To Expect

The best part about volunteering is that you will have a chance to contribute to something you care deeply about. You will have an opportunity to use your skills in a meaningful way and meet new people who share your interests.

You have rights and responsibilities

Know the Code
The Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement is a good place to learn about your role and the standards that non-profit organizations strive to uphold.

As a volunteer, you have the right to expect orientation and training, to give and to receive feedback, and to receive assignments that reflect the mission or purpose of the organization.

All I want to do is help, why do I have to be screened?
All organizations that provide programs to vulnerable people – like children, seniors or people with disabilities – whether run by staff or volunteers, have a responsibility to appropriately screen their volunteers.

Five Tips To Get You Started

  1. At Volunteer Canada, you will find a wealth of information, including links to the national network of Volunteer Centres. These Volunteer Centres can help you find opportunities close to home or far away.
  2. Start with a cause that matters to you
  3. Search online for websites and information related to your cause or issue.
    For social causes, you can also try online directories. For example, the 211 system offers both a phone and online directory of community services. 211 service is available in many parts of Canada, and the list is growing. United Way organizations fund local community services in many parts of Canada. Most of these organizations are looking for volunteers and you can really make a difference.
  4. Attend a benefit, festival or event that links to your passion.
    You’ll meet other people who share interests and passions and this may lead to even more opportunities.
  5. Search for specific opportunities online
    There are many online resources available that link to real-time volunteer openings. Two examples are the Charity Village online search or the Workopolis Readiness Quiz which help you to match your interests with volunteer opportunities right across Canada.
  6. Spread the word!
    Use your own networks to find out about volunteer activities. Tell friends and family what you are looking for and mention your skills and interests.

Recruiting Baby Boomers As Volunteers

Baby boomers are busy people. There is lots of competition for their attention and their time, so you’ll need strategic and targeted recruitment efforts.

The four C’s of recruitment

  1. Connect to boomers
    Reach and connect to baby boomers through key influencers, like their peers. If you have baby boomer volunteers already involved in your organization, they are your very best recruitment ambassadors. Research shows that word of mouth promotion is one of the best ways to recruit volunteers. Encourage your current baby boomer volunteers to spread the word and encourage others to get involved.Baby boomers are highly influenced by expert opinion. Use evidence-based research findings or testimonials from experts or high profile members of the community.

    Many of Canada’s baby boomers are in the workforce – either full-time or part-time – so workplaces are important places to connect with them. Target workplaces that match the volunteer needs of your organization. Explain how employees’ particular qualifications would help further your cause. If there are baby boomers nearing retirement connect with them and give a personal invitation to find out more about volunteering with your organization. One way to do this is to get on the agenda of retirement planning seminars or “lunch and learn” events offered through HR departments.

    You can also connect with baby boomer volunteers out in the community. Consider organizing activities and services that families can do together and offer opportunities for intergenerational volunteering. For example, many families are looking for opportunities to give of their time during the holiday season. Look for opportunities to speak about your organization at places where baby boomers gather – like running clubs, yoga studios, lectures, arts or sports events. Have your best and brightest ambassadors there to talk to about volunteering. And don’t forget your own clients! Users of your services will very often come back to volunteer. You just need to ask.

    Finally, connect with potential baby boomer volunteers online. More and more baby boomers are looking for information of every kind online. An easy way to promote your volunteer opportunities is to make sure that they can “Google” you to find the information they need. There are also several options for posting your recruitment message online through your local volunteer centre’s website, CharityVillage.com or Workopolis. When they click the link and go to your website, make sure that your website is current and welcoming. Since many baby boomers are also using social networking sites, consider connecting with them there. To find out more about new media tools like blogs, wikis, social networks and podcasts, click here.

  2. Create key messages
    When you have a sense of where to connect with potential baby boomer volunteers, you’ll need to create key messages that build on what we know about baby boomers and what motivates them.

    Motivations for baby boomers General recruitment messages
    Commitment to a cause-and making a difference Volunteering builds your community.Link the volunteer position directly to the mission of the organization
    Personal development (mental and spiritual) Find new purpose.
    Concern for health and well being Boost your health and reduce your stress.
    Meet other people who share interests and passions Volunteering is social networking–and fun.
  3. Customize for different baby boomer audiences
    Baby boomers are a huge group with wide ranging ages, interests and backgrounds so you will need to segment your audience and recruit accordingly. For example, baby boomers who were born in South Asia may not relate to boomer pop references from North America. Similarly, baby boomers who were born in the 1960s have different priorities than older boomers.
  4. Communicate widely with high quality materials
    Baby boomers respond to professional high quality packaging so keep that in mind when you create and assemble your recruitment materials (like annual reports, mission statements, position descriptions, goals and program descriptions, etc.) Make sure that your online and print communication materials have the same high quality standards. Use your local media to publicize your cause or your service at every opportunity and appeal to experienced seasoned members of the community directly. Research shows that of the top volunteers in Canada 20% responded to information in the media.

Why Do Baby Boomers Volunteer?

Research indicates four main reasons why baby boomers volunteer. They want to:

  1. Support a cause that they believe in.
  2. Make a contribution to society.
  3. Share their skills.
  4. Do something meaningful with their friends and colleagues.

More importantly, baby boomers want to volunteer on their own terms. Consider some of the challenges that baby boomers face:

They don’t have enough time.

  • Theirs is known as a sandwich generation – caring for children and aging parents simultaneously leaves less free time.

They don’t have time during traditional work hours.

  • Many baby boomers work full-time and many work past the traditional retirement age of 65. Unless their employers have a corporate volunteering program, these volunteers can’t always be available when you need them.

They don’t identify with traditional images of volunteers.

  • The clichéd image of a kindly white-haired volunteer clashes with the way baby boomers see themselves – more youthful and dynamic than their parents.

They don’t want to do routine or menial volunteer tasks.

  • With less free time, many of today’s volunteers expect challenging and meaningful work that reflects their skills and experience.

Retaining Your Baby Boomer Volunteers

Once you’ve succeeded in recruiting baby boomer volunteers for your organization, it is important to keep them active and engaged. Some of the same approaches and incentives used to retain your employees can be used to retain your volunteers.

Why baby boomers stop volunteering How to keep them engaged
The expectations weren’t clear. Set up clear orientation processes:

  • Be ready – Once volunteers arrive, don’t keep them waiting.
  • Make volunteers feel welcome – When you first meet your volunteers, offer a tour of the office or event area, make coffee or water available and don’t hold back your enthusiasm.
  • Introduce volunteers to other staff members – Avoid any potential tension between volunteers and staff positions by being clear about roles and responsibilities.
  • Set expectations – Be clear with your volunteers about what is expected of them. Tell them what you need accomplished and act as a resource should they have questions or concerns.
  • Provide enough training – Take time to give them the tools they need to do their volunteer work, including clear guidelines.
They don’t have time.
  • Design episodic volunteer opportunities – Offer flexible schedules, where possible.
  • Make it easy for them – Offer parking permits, bus fare, and schedules that don’t conflict with commuter traffic or meal times.
They don’t feel appreciated.
  • Thank them – Congratulate your volunteers on a job well done. Do it often.
  • Check in – Periodically ask them how comfortable they are with their level of duties.
  • Recognize volunteers who show greater interest by promoting them to positions of greater responsibility.
  • Make it a rewarding experience – Let people know they’re important. Offer perks such as lunch on a long day, or host volunteer appreciation activities.
  • Find out what recognition means to your volunteers – not everyone feels recognized in the same way.
The organization doesn’t “walk its talk.”
  • Actions speak volumes – Be the professional, well-run organization they believe you to be.
  • Remember that for baby boomers, feeling purposeful is key – The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to continue volunteering.
  • Respect their commitment to your cause – Treat them as partners, not subordinates.

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