Although volunteer opportunities have been traditionally understood as a venture for the younger generations, there seems to be an increasing, and welcome, trend of highly skilled workers in their forties and fifties now beginning to take up the mantle of altruism. While the trend is not necessarily comprehensively understood, the fact that it even exists is certainly a good thing for the not-for-profit sector of the economy. Skilled workers will always have a place in the nonprofit community, yet there are certain things to take note of when incorporating more experienced volunteers into an organization.
These volunteers have generally developed skills over the course of their career that recent college grads have simply not had the opportunity to learn yet. For example, many have bolstered their flexibility and communication skills. By working for a prolonged period of time in an office, these workers understand the significance of proper, accurate, and informed communication.
By facilitating conversation in regards to both external and internal communication, these workers can capitalize upon existing conversations in addition to opening new lines of dialogue. Just as well, many donors are in an older age range as well (considering the ability to donate often stems from financial stability), so employing older volunteers could very well foster deeper connections and relationships that younger volunteers would find more difficult to establish. However, all this said, there are other things to keep in mind when putting more skilled workers to use.
For instance, although a charitable organization will not have to put forth quite the same effort into training more skilled volunteers (as opposed to a recent college grad, for example) they should absolutely put forth a considerable amount of time into thinking about how to use these individuals in a meaningful manner. To relegate educated and experienced workers to tedious and less engaging responsibilities is to risk losing them anyway. So, while certainly experienced workers can be of a tremendous benefit to an organization, their skills should be efficiently used, or the opportunity not only negatively impacts the worker in question, but negatively affects the charitable organization as well. By not fully utilizing a more experienced volunteer’s skills, an organization is actually wasting its own resources in terms of both training and time.
Yet, by no means is this a reason to turn an older volunteer away. It is merely something to take into account when streamlining efficiency. Although the older demographic is less involved in charity as a whole, that does not mean charities should not seek them out. They hold a deeper understanding of organizations’ infrastructure. They can cultivate a greater relationship with the older donor base. Essentially, they can build a nonprofit in ways that the younger generations have simply not been exposed to as of yet this early on in their careers.
Take advantage of wisdom and invest a little extra time to planning where skillful workers should focus their efforts. The benefits could be enormous.