Technology and demographic shifts are changing how nonprofits engage volunteers. If you're not ahead of the curve, then you may be missing out on golden opportunities to expand your volunteer network.
The following are our predictions for 2014 - and how your organization can benefit from them.
#1: The “Boom” Continues
It’s been discussed many times. Retired baby boomers are significantly impacting volunteerism. In fact, way back in 2007 we documented how the eldest members of this generation were getting ready to retire and were primed for volunteering. Now, almost seven years later, their influence has reached a critical mass. Each year more boomers are retiring, adding to the existing pool of retirees. And, thanks to an ever-increasing life expectancy, even the oldest members of this generation are still extremely engaged. Expect to have increasing number of highly qualified, highly educated boomers to choose from.
An important suggestion: be prepared to offer boomers opportunities that match their expertise. Having worked with many volunteers from this generation, we find that boomers appreciate contributing to multi-faceted projects or complex tasks. Sure, you’ll always have some participants who are satisfied performing administrative work; however, it’s important to offer a myriad of opportunities ranging in duration and skill level.
#2: Mobile Technology will Re-Shape Volunteerism
Take a look around you. Mobile technology is obviously everywhere. Volunteers, like any other segment of the population, use mobile technology for virtually every aspect of life. Tablets are outselling laptops, and if you add the millions of smartphones into the mix, it’s clear that people like to stay connected on the go. This is especially true of the 35-and-under demographic.
Given all this evidence, it would be foolish for your nonprofit to ignore this trend – right?
Volunteers increasingly expect organizations to make use of mobile technology. Stop and think about the many ways volunteers interact with your organization. Event registration, check-in, hour tracking, social media, text messaging, email communications are all possibilities. I’d recommend you list out all volunteer interactions and then consider how to utilize mobile technology to make your volunteers’ experiences more meaningful and engaging.
#3: Recent Grads are Increasingly Available to Help
In 2014 keep an eye open for recent college grads looking for “hands-on” or “real-world” experience. Sadly, it’s still difficult for recent grads with little experience to find work in their respective fields. However, by volunteering with your organization, graduates can gain experience (and potentially a nice reference from you).
When managed correctly this can be a win-win situation. The grad gets a resume-building experience, while you get a college-educated individual ready to contribute time, knowledge, and energy to your mission.
#4: Pre-Screening of Volunteers Becomes the Norm
Unfortunately, some volunteers can end up doing more harm than good. As a result, many organizations are paying increased attention to volunteer screening. In fact, clients, paid staff, and volunteers are starting to expect it.
Luckily, background screening services like the one mentioned in this article are making efforts easier and more affordable. The risk of doing nothing is now greater than the cost of doing something. It’s time your organization thought seriously about a pre-screening program.
The year ahead offers many opportunities to your organization. More efficiently leveraging the power of your volunteer network can certainly make a big impact. Integrated technology will continue to help nonprofits develop a more complete view of each constituent. In doing so, organizations will expand their volunteer networks, cross-pollinate volunteer and donor lists, and ultimately contribute to the mission at hand.
Feel free to comment and share your tips and predictions for 2014. I’d love to compare notes with you!
The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.