Volunteers are an important asset for your nonprofit; by donating their time, they enable your paid staff members to carry out specialized tasks. If you’re struggling to find long-term volunteers, or if your go-to people have limited availability, senior citizens can be a great solution. The numbers are in your favor in 2011, 29 percent of Canada’s population were baby boomers. As this group ages, the potential senior volunteer pool grows. With the right recruiting tactics, you can bring in older people and create a partnership that benefits both your organization and the senior volunteers.
Benefits of Using Senior Volunteers
Seniors can solve a variety of problems that are common in nonprofit volunteer programs. The first is availability; since many seniors are in retirement and not caring for a young family, they tend to have more time to donate to your cause. Older people bring in decades of professional and life experience, so they may require less training than younger people. They are also more mature and better able to handle phone calls and professional communication. What’s more, research by Volunteer Canada found that seniors tend to be loyal to causes they believe in and organizations that treat them well a significant benefit if your nonprofit struggles to retain volunteers.
If your organization is dedicated to community-building, volunteering also benefits the seniors themselves. It provides social interaction, reduces isolation, cuts down on depression, and provides healthy physical activity that can slow the effects of aging. By engaging older nonprofit volunteers, you can help improve the quality of life for a sector of the local population.
How to Recruit Senior Volunteers
To recruit older adults, you may need to adjust your current strategy. Since many seniors are less comfortable with internet communication, social media posts and email campaigns might not be effective. Instead, consider a direct mail campaign or a print advertisement. Post flyers at places that serve older community members, including churches, senior centers, and senior housing communities. Put a notice in your monthly newsletter, and ask your current volunteers, donors, and staff to send their grandparents or older friends your way.
Another way to bring more seniors to your volunteer program is to offer transportation. A simple pickup and drop-off program can set older volunteers’ minds at ease, particularly if they have vision problems or prefer not to drive during busy periods.
The language you use in volunteer recruitment should be targeted to the concerns of older people. Since many seniors live on fixed incomes, you might emphasize that your program is free and highlight cost-saving perks such as meals during volunteer shifts and discounts at local businesses. Highlight the social aspects of your volunteer work to bring in people who are looking for a community. You might also list available positions that might be attractive to retirees, such as greeting event attendees or participating in event planning.
Using Older Volunteers
Once you have older volunteers on board, keep them engaged with targeted work options. Seniors with years of professional experience can use their management skills in a volunteer supervisor position; people who are personable and chatty might be happy answering phones, operating the front desk, or circulating at events to welcome visitors. If your organization serves local people, consider using older senior volunteers to provide counseling or social support. Your older volunteers can be particularly invaluable in working with older community members. A great example is the Peer Advocate Program at the Seniors Resource Centre of Newfoundland and Labrador, which uses older volunteers to provide assistance and a listening ear for other seniors dealing with difficult situations. With the right opportunities, you can keep senior volunteers engaged and maximize their contributions to your organization.