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HomeBoomer Initiative
MAVA Resources on Engaging Boomers as Volunteers

Boomer Engagement Task Force

A Task Force of 15 volunteers, all around  retirement age, was assembled by MAVA to provide ideas and advice from the volunteers’ perspective.
Input was also gathered from more than 70 other volunteers through a series of meetings, interviews with colleagues, and a discussion forum with the Vital Aging Network.
See the results from this effort in the following documents:


Organizations everywhere are seeking ways to optimally serve their missions while effectively and efficiently leveraging their resources. Strategic talent management that ensures a committed, well-matched, engaged, and creative workforce is central to this objective.

For some organizations, active volunteer engagement and management are an important and integral component of extending and enhancing their talent resources. In these instances, both the organization and the volunteers are enriched. The findings of this Task Force, however, suggest that too often organizations overlook, underplay, or otherwise miss out on the potential infusion of expertise, experience, and energy that volunteers can offer them. Missed opportunities to engage with motivated Boomer volunteers abound. It is alarming how many talented, well-intentioned people are not able to find a place that offers a good fit for their volunteer efforts.

There is enormous potential for volunteers to impact critical issues if we:
  • Create better means to match volunteers with opportunities;
  • Better inform people on how to find a volunteer fit;
  • Treat volunteer engagement and effective management as an integral part of overall talent management, support, and supervision.
From the volunteers’ perspective, it is clear that to do this will take an investment of resources by organizations into the critical variable of adequate and quality staffing, and an investment by funders into better support for volunteerism. If this is done, there is a significant reward: thousands of hours of energetic volunteer talent will be focused on bettering our communities. If this is not done, a major opportunity will be lost.

MAVA Initiative: Creating Organizational Readiness to Engage Boomers and the New Wave of Volunteers. While there has been extensive research into the 'Baby Boomer' generation and changes in how today's volunteers wish to be contributing, there is little concrete information about how volunteer leaders within organizations can be catalysts for changes internally to successfully connect with these potential volunteers, and recruit, retain and engage them in meaningful roles. MAVA addressed this by:
  • Holding two symposiums for leaders of volunteers to build the base of hands-on knowledge for engaging and retaining Boomers as volunteers.
  • Turning the information from the symposiums and a review of the research into a curriculum for training of leaders of volunteers statewide that has reaches over 1,400 leaders of volunteers.
  • Developing resources for organizations on engaging Boomers and upcoming generations as volunteers.

12 Best Practices for Engaging Boomers and New Generations of Volunteers

  • Understand volunteers’ deep-seated need to have impact and use that understanding in all facets of how you involve them as volunteers.
  • Focus the volunteer interview on learning the prospective volunteer’s passions, mutually designing his/her volunteer role and helping the volunteer determine if your organization is the right place to realize the impact he/she wants to have.
  • Offer a wide choice of volunteer opportunities in all aspects of the organization’s operations.
  • Include some short term and seasonal volunteer positions to align with current volunteer availability.
  • Offer skills-based volunteer opportunities to maximize what volunteers can bring to the organization.
  • Develop volunteer position descriptions that are engaging and show impact.
  • Move volunteers into project leadership roles. Be open to project ideas that volunteers propose.
  • Develop appealing volunteer recruitment messages, working through your organization’s networks. Cultivate prospects and be highly visible on the web.
  • Re-frame traditional volunteer supervision to leading volunteers and offering collegial support. Identify high potential volunteers and cultivate them to take on additional responsibility.
  • Also re-frame volunteer recognition to respond to the value current volunteers place on having impact and on being life-long learners.
  • Be an instigator for these organizational changes. Identify your champions for change. Start small in a part of the organization open to innovation and then market the success with colleagues in other parts of the organization.
  • Create systems to monitor changes in volunteer expectations and become a learning organization that adapts to changing needs of volunteers.