If you did a survey of hospital volunteer programs, you would discover the majority of them were formed in the early-to-mid 1950’s. These programs were organized by GI Generation women, many of whom had worked and volunteered to support the war. Once their soldiers returned, the women returned home too, raising children and putting their time, organizing skills, and energy into volunteering and raising funds for civic organizations…and community hospitals.
Many in the GI Generation were shaped by two world wars and a great depression, and so were their workplace values. These are the values that have defined hospital volunteer programs for more than 50 years–serving on a regular-ongoing basis, performing repetitive, lower skilled, highly defined roles. An annual banquet and a pin for their service hours were standard and desirable forms of recognition. A pink pinafore was a source of pride. Now the youngest members of the GI Generation are 85 years of age.
What is your healthcare institution doing to create new systems and new opportunities for the next volunteer generation?
Your volunteer pool is dwindling and you are not alone. But looking to younger volunteers to work in “old” systems won’t succeed. This next generation says they prefer short-term commitments. They want meaningful work and opportunities to use their professional skills. They want autonomy, self-direction and lots of choice when volunteering. They are time-poor and you are competing for their recreational time and time with friends and loved ones. What they want in exchange is a valuable experience-reflective of their ideals, their skills, and their values!
By 2010, nearly 64 million Boomers will be poised to retire. Because of the long-term effects of the current recession, many will have to work, but not all of them full time. Research tells us almost two-thirds of Boomers plan to volunteer. Serving community becomes more important to them as they age. They are willing to roll up their sleeves to solve society’s problems, but it may be between jobs or on a project basis.
What can you do to attract this next volunteer generation? Consider…
- Hire a professional volunteer director–preferably one who has completed their Certified Administrator of Volunteer Services (CAVS) designation through the American Hospital Association. Or support your existing director in getting certified.
- Give your volunteer director time and resources to create new volunteer management systems.
- Expand volunteer opportunities for highly skilled individuals. Use words like pro bono consultant, team leader, virtual volunteer and entrepreneur words when marketing.
- Train employees to work with a more educated and professionally trained volunteer workforce. Recognize and compensate them for doing so.
- Create a new range of incentives for a more diverse volunteer team.
Create a win-win for all
An AARP poll found that nearly 54% of volunteers and 48% of non-volunteers would give 15-hours a week if they were provided compensation such as reduced drug costs, gas, and small monthly stipends. For individuals who have just lost a job and half of their retirement, a stipend (contract labor at below market wages) could create a win-win for all. The poll also found that the 50+ volunteer workforce could be doubled through small inducements such as learning new things, making friends, and putting career skills to use.
Changing a half century-old volunteer management system requires time and strategic planning. Current volunteers will need to be brought on board. And, it will take time to find out what works, change what doesn’t, and make course corrections.
What are the benefits to you?
- Because they are “private citizens,” volunteers are free to advocate on your behalf.
- They extend the budget by providing time philanthropy, and, if managed effectively, can have a large impact on your ability to reach your mission.
- Volunteers have the luxury to concentrate their time and expertise on a particular issue, customer or service area.
- They are an abundant resource that can compliment your workforce.
- Volunteers are twice as likely to donate money as non-volunteers.
Healthcare volunteer programs have been making incremental changes for decades. But shifting demographics and transformational changes now occurring in our country and healthcare institutions, have made it critical that hospitals make fundamental and meaningful changes in how volunteers are recruited, managed and supported.
Volunteers can improve your hospital’s effectiveness and services to both patients and your community. Are you ready to succeed with this new talent pool?
Wendy Biro-Pollard, President of Training and Consulting Solutions, is a seasoned speaker and facilitator in demand at regional and national conferences in the US and Canada. She serves on the US training team for VISTA Americorp and recently provided contract training services for Temple University’s Center for Intergenerational Learning, boomer volunteer initiative.
Wendy is a Certified Volunteer Administrator with over 25 years in healthcare volunteer management. She served on the board of the Association of Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association.
For more information, contact me through this site or by phone at 512-914-8176.