To call or to text: Who will answer next?

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Since the roles of volunteers are ever-changing, what with the shifts in both the workforce and the aging population, organizations are now facing the need to understand and learn to communicate with the various generations who are volunteering together - and the challenges that come with mixed generations volunteering together.

Even daily communication can be difficult to navigate. Here’s a personal example:

One of my children, who is in his 20’s, does not answer phones, ever, even when I call. He will be sitting on the computer, phone in hand and iPad beside him, and when I answer. And yet, when I text, I get an immediate response. When I ask him, “Why don’t you answer the phone?” his response is, “I don’t like talking on the phone, texting is faster and easier.”

And he is not going to change.

As leaders of volunteers in your organizations, it is critical to proactively and creatively come up with both new and interesting volunteer opportunities to engage the younger generations - while at the same time learning to navigate the nuances of communication between the generations in this fast-moving digital age. In fact, one of the biggest challenges leaders of volunteers face is dealing with the communication preferences of the different generations. Each generation looks at their time investment differently and the challenge is to find out and incorporate the various means of communication into your volunteer strategies.

Traditionally you may have had face-to-face meetings where all decisions are made, but now you need to look at a subtle shift to more short bursts of communication through email or text to handle specific topics.

How de we engage this younger group?

  • Provide a purpose and value to their volunteer participation
  • Build in opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills
  • Accommodate the need for flexibility, episodic and virtual opportunities
  • Consider a mentorship or coaching program to encourage growth and build your succession plans
  • Develop project based volunteer opportunities, such as ambassador programs, where they can share their passion and connect to their communities

Start by asking the right questions.

  • What is working and what is not?
  • Have we set achievable goals and ensure that there is someone who has their eye on the prize.
  • Where are your gaps?
  • Who are your potential volunteers and what do they want?
  • Have you sent out a survey to ask these questions or are you guessing?
  • Does your website have volunteer engagement pages that talk about the roles, opportunities, and expectations.
  • It is our role to help our volunteers find ways to connect with each other. It is our role to educate the staff and volunteers on best practices in volunteer engagement and communication and it is also our role to come up with creative ways to blend these generations together in a meaningful volunteer experience that encourages them to become fully engaged and interested in growing within the organization.

    Join me September 13, 2018 for a free webinar, where we'll discuss further how to engage intergenerational volunteers in your volunteer program.

    Lori Gotlieb is the President of Lori Gotlieb Consulting as well as co-developer and faculty member for Humber College Volunteer Management Leadership Certificate and recently developed a leadership course for Humber College for their continuing education program. She is a volunteer management leadership expert who provides a unique concierge service to her clients as well as an internationally published author and workshop facilitator who has taught workshops to many diverse audiences, including Boards and Committees, Associations and Nonprofit organizations across North America.

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