October 7, 2022

Seventy-nine million boomers will change the world again

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Changing the world is not an easy assignment – but baby boomers did it once and they’ll do it again.

They tackled civil rights and women’s rights and ushered the country into the digital age of communication and entertainment media. They demanded better health care and more efficient automobiles. They worked alone and worked together to influence both their neighbors and their political leaders. Their list of achievements over the past 60-plus years is undeniably remarkable.

The boomer generation has “never just migrated through stages of life,” says Ken Dychtwald, a specialist on aging. “They always transformed them as they went . . . boomers are not going to grow old like any generations we’ve ever seen.”

And now this cohort of baby boomers – this largest of all generations, born between 1946 and 1964 inclusively – is redefining what retirement means and is on the verge of changing the world again through active volunteerism. Sometimes referred to as the “Senior Tsunami,” this 79 million-member group will begin turning 65 in 2011 and while many now must work longer than expected, large numbers are still likely to commence rolling in waves out of the work force. This powerful tsunami will continue through 2029 and beyond.

Not content to sit on their laurels
Thankfully, the boomer generation is a generation with heart, a generation that is already stepping up, recognizing that they can leave the world a better place for their children and grandchildren. It’s a strong and healthy group with a passion for helping others. Demographers predict the boomers will live longer lives and remain in better physical condition than any predecessor generation.

So, for many, knitting afghans and raising roses will not suffice. Volunteering will become the pathway of choice for many boomers. It will provide a way for them to maintain a social network with people who express their values in similar ways. Some volunteer experiences will also offer an element of adventure – something many boomers desire – without being unsafe or disorganized.
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Why Volunteers Stop Serving

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In spite of the economic downturn, many individuals continue to serve in their communities–helping their neighbors and organizing service projects.

In  2008, 61.8 million adults donated approximately 8 billion hours of time, and yet, over one-third of these individuals (35.5%) stopped volunteering and did not serve with any organization the following year.  This high rate of volunteer turnover has forced nonprofits to focus on replacing volunteers instead of maximizing impact and building organizational capacity.

A July 2009 report titled Pathways to Service posted on Volunteering In America identified five barriers that may keep individuals from volunteering or returning to service.

Key Findings

1.  Personal invitations to serve are more appealing to prospective volunteers.

Many individuals said they had never volunteered because they had never been asked. These same non-volunteers also said that if they were asked, they would be open to volunteering.

Organizations need to address this misconception in order to effectively recruit new volunteers.  Having existing volunteers share their stories can help non-volunteers see that they are just like those who serve.
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Too Many Volunteers?

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by Fonda Kendrick, VolunteerHub.com

It’s a perfect storm when it comes to volunteerism in America right now, based on several factors that we’ve blogged about in the past. The baby boomers are retiring, the unemployed are looking for activities to hone their skills for resumes and simply to fill their free time, and President Obama has issued a massive call to action on the volunteer front. Based on these three streams of supply, nonprofits are currently seeing an unprecedented demand for volunteer opportunities.

In an ironic twist, many organizations that have seen a rise in their volunteer numbers have also seen a downturn in resources. Lindsay Firestone of Taproot comments, “It’s like a Greek tragedy. We’re thrilled to have all of these volunteers. But now organizations are stuck not being able to take advantage of it because they don’t have adequate funding.”

Just a few months ago, The New York Times reported a huge surge of volunteers in areas all across the country. (One hundred thousand in New York City alone!) Suddenly, many nonprofits nationwide are saying something they never thought possible: we have too many volunteers! In fact, the Times quoted one anonymous nonprofit exec as saying, “Can you make them stop calling? Everybody’s inspired by Obama,” he noted. Then he tacked on, “They also don’t have jobs.”

Others echo the executive’s sentiment. Bertina Ceccarelli of United Way in New York, states: “It’s sad but true, but the irony is that sometimes it’s almost more work to find something for a volunteer to do than to just turn them away.”

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United We Serve

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On June 17th, President Obama announced a new initiative to encourage service in America, United We Serve, and asked Americans of all ages to volunteer over the summer.

“I’m calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation,” said President Obama in a video release. “And when I say ‘all,’ I mean everyone young and old, from every background, all across this country. We need individuals, community organizations, corporations, foundations, and our government to be part of this effort.”

Click here for the entire announcement:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/United-We-Serve

Click here for Michelle Obama announcement:  http://www.allforgood.org/

Related links:

Online resource for service:  http://www.serve.gov/

Notes from 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service:  http://philanthropy.com/news/conference/

Conference blog:  http://www.casefoundation.org/blog/united-we-serve-new-rally-cry

Related article:

Jobless Professionals Yearn to Do Good, Kyle Stock, The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2009

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