Generation V for Volunteer

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QUESTION 3: Do they feel valued?

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This past year I did something I hadn’t done in 18 years: I served
as a part-time interim pastor of a church to help them find a
pastor. I was reminded of an important lesson I’d forgotten.
Denise, a Boomer who volunteers as director of our women’s
ministry, said something I won’t forget: “Don’t just stop me in the
church foyer after a service and ask me how it’s going. Make an
appointment with me so I can tell you about our ministry. When you
do that, you value my role in our ministry, and that is huge.”
Denise had the courage to say what many think, and I took her words
very seriously.

The Answer: Denise reminded me of this vital
aspect of my pastoral role. I’d gotten so busy that I forgot the
importance of volunteer affirmation. So I began to keep a list on
my desk with the names of our volunteers. I made sure that each
week I either mailed a thank you note (not an email) or met with at
least one person to listen to and affirm the ministry that person
was undertaking. All paid church staff ought to keep such a list
and review it every month to see just how much affirmation they’re
giving their volunteers.

If we don’t show appreciation, we lose volunteers to our local
hospital or animal shelter. Those organizations that make these
volunteers feel they couldn’t get along without them are the ones
that’ll keep them.

QUESTION 4: Do you provide flexibility?

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When you recruit young professionals to redesign your Web site,
they’ll probably do the work at 2:00 a.m. But who cares? Their
lives are filled with activities such as skiing, hiking, biking,
movies, drama, concerts, and church. Even with a full plate of such
delectable choices, this generation still wants to give back.
They’re quick to add another activity to their already busy lives.
If you don’t ask, someone else will.

Many of my post-Boomer friends are more active in volunteer work
than they’ve ever been. But they volunteer according to their
schedules. Even though these volunteers are on the go and travel a
lot, they also have more time to dedicate to volunteer causes. But
you have to offer a flexible schedule that allows for time off for
a monthlong trip to Africa (to volunteer for a mission trip) or to
Arkansas (to visit the grandkids).

The Answer: Flexibility is perhaps the most
difficult aspect for leaders when it comes to working with
volunteers. Let’s face it, we’d love to have volunteers who are
there every week and who commit for the next five years. But if we
try to hold to that commitment level, we’ll miss the expertise of
great volunteers who choose to serve in other organizations where
flexibility is the norm. Look at your volunteer needs and ask
yourself, Where can I ask for an eight-month commitment or a
three-month commitment?

QUESTION 5: Are volunteers empowered?

I recently served on a local committee that gave out 40 awards for
community volunteer service in our city. One award went to an
18-year-old who volunteered his time to develop an IT system for
the Sacramento-Sierra Chapter of the American Red Cross. The CEO
had asked the teenager to analyze and assess the needs of three
outlying locations. When he presented his analysis and suggested
solutions to the CEO, she gave him the go-ahead to interview
prospective outside vendors for a contract for IT support.

“Watching this teenager walk professionals around the office was a
pleasure as we saw him shine with pride and confidence,” said the
CEO. “Although I was impressed with this young man, I was more
impressed with a manager who knows how to empower a teenager. She
got it.”

The Answer: Today’s volunteers don’t want to be
managed — they want to be empowered.

“The Millennial generation has ambivalent, even negative, feelings
about formal leadership,” says Peter Levine, director of a
nonpartisan research center at the University of Maryland that
studies young people and civic involvement. “They prefer horizontal
leadership in which everyone’s a leader.”

Retired professionals also resist being managed. They want you to
give them desired outcomes and then allow them to use their
experience and ideas to get it done. Help these volunteers
understand your mission, your cause, and your desired outcomes.
Then turn them loose.

• • •

Boomers and Millennials are a lot alike. Both are at a life stage
where they have time, expertise, and resources to give you what you
need in the way of volunteers. They want to use their professional
skills to help accomplish your vision. Neither have the
responsibilities of raising children. Both generations need to be
affirmed in their roles. But there’s a major difference: The
younger generation will tell you upfront that they don’t want to
stuff envelopes or do other trivial tasks. Retiring professionals,
on the other hand, will probably accept the job, but they won’t
volunteer for you again.

Don’t shy away from recruiting these valuable groups of people.
Just be smart when it comes to managing them — and learn how to
make the most of their great talents. cm

Thomas McKee is president and owner of the firm Volunteer
Power and co-author of
The New Breed.

Learn more about recruiting and managing today’s volunteer in
The New Breed. As a Children’s Ministry Magazine reader,
you’ll get a special 25% discount when ordering at group.com! Just enter the promo
code CR8156.

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