In Understanding the Motivations of Baby Boomer Volunteers, the national volunteerism support organization AmeriCorps argued, based on 2004 data, that volunteer opportunities “must be expanded and diversified in order to appeal to the 35 million people who are already over 65 and the 79 million baby boomers who are transitioning from primary careers and family building.” Today, the number of Americans over the age of 65 has risen significantly, to 56 million; within 40 years, that number is projected to rise to 94.7 million.

As researchers, the question of how nonprofit organizations can proactively design volunteer programs to be attractive to, and specifically supportive of, this fast-growing segment of our society is compelling. The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration conducted in-depth research with volunteer program leaders across the midwestern US, and we believe our findings are relevant nationally.

  • Easier to Recruit, Deploy, and Retain  The data suggest that one reason to prioritize senior volunteers is the relative ease of recruiting and deploying them. Sixty-one percent of respondents say senior volunteers are easier to recruit than younger volunteers. And, once recruited, seniors can provide a stable base of support to an organization. Regarding volunteers who are 65–74 years old, our research found:
  • Unique Advantages and Challenges Respondents also report challenges in working with senior volunteers that are unique to, or more common than with younger volunteers, although challenges are less frequent than the advantages outlined above. Among the most frequent challenges reported are physical/health-related, use of technology, and seasonality in desired volunteer work, with this last finding likely more common to regions with extreme weather.
  • Understanding Seniors’ Motivations According to the volunteer program leaders in our study, it is important to recognize and understand why seniors are drawn to volunteerism, as well as what concerns may prevent them from engaging.

Read the full article about senior volunteers by Joshua Braverman and Ryan Kaitz at Nonprofit Quarterly.