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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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Featured Article: Two Generations Ready & Willing to Volunteer, Part I
The following article is an excerpt from Chapter Four of Jonathan's new book,
The New Breed, that he wrote with
his father, Tom McKee of VolunteerPower.com.
Enjoy the creative style this book brings as both authors banter back and forth about this new breed of
volunteer that is emerging. (This book is available now with free shipping and signed by both authors
Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
Retiring "Boomers" and "Generation @"
We hear this question all the time: "How can we get the younger generation involved?"
In fact, we asked the same question of the volunteer manager at Shiners Hospital. Her answer was
typical. She was quiet for a time and then answered, "We don't, for the most part, except for
A lot of volunteer managers don't like working with the younger generation, and the younger generation
does not like working for older generations. In case you didn't notice, the two key words in that last
sentence are with and for. The important question that you must answer is this: How do you create
a volunteer culture that attracts the growing numbers of retiring Boomers and young professionals- and
encourages them to work together?
For years, I've divided a workshop that I teach into two groups: Baby Boomers (born roughly between 1943 and
1964) and Generation X (born roughly between 1965 and 1981). I always ask the groups to discuss the question,
"What are the differences in the work ethic of the Boomers and Xers?" After about 15 minutes of discussion, I
have the Boomers report first. I've listened to these reports for more than 10 years, and they nearly always
say the same thing:
Xers aren't committed. They often come late, leave early, and work on their own time schedule. They show
no respect for authority. They don't want to do any more than is expected, and they'll jump ship as soon
as a more lucrative offer is on the table. They're very knowledgeable about high-tech stuff, and they keep
wanting to change things. But you can't depend on them when you need to get a job done.
Then I give the Gen X group a turn. I'll never forget when I heard an Xer give the following report:
What you've just said is true. We're exactly what you said because that's the way you brought us up. We
watched you work for 70 or 80 hours a week for the same company for the last 40 years, and then that
company dumped you. We watched you divorce each other and leave us home alone while you tried to make a
living on your own. We were shuffled from one home to another, and we learned to be independent. We grew
up with presidents who lie and company presidents who get rich while the rest of you make money for them.
We've learned to look at work as a job to support a lifestyle while you look at work as a lifestyle. Don't
ask us to work overtime, because we have a life outside of work. Don't expect us to devote our lives to
When the young man gave that report, the room was quiet. The Boomers looked at each other, and finally one
woman spoke up and said, "Wow, what an indictment!" When I asked if they thought what the Xer said was true,
the Boomers agreed that it was pretty much right on.
In 2006, I began to change the experiment. I did the same exercise, except the parameters were different. I
simply divided the room by those under 25 and those over 25. As the room finished dividing, one side of the
room was made up of Generation @ (those under 25 at the time, also called Millennials, Gen Y, or Nexters).
The other side of the room was usually comprised of Xers and Boomers (25 and up). I asked the same question.
The answers didn't change. The Gen Xers just joined up with the Boomers-finally agreeing on something-to
criticize this new generation. They voiced almost the exact same complaints that the Boomers verbalized about
Xers years prior. The new generation, those 25 and under, repeated the age-old complaints about the
generations older than they are.
What does this tell us?
I've come to the following conclusion: Most of us simply see the world very differently when we're 20 than
we do when we're 35 or 50.
I've been reading about and listening to people speculate about the differences in the generations for
decades. To be honest, the complaints don't sound much different. Yes, a 20-year-old in 2007 has some unique
differences from someone who was 20 in 1987 or in 1967. For example, most of us would agree that today's 20-year-old
is more tech savvy and a better multi-tasker. In fact, entire books have been written on the subject. Yet I find
that most people who want to compare the 20-year-olds of today with others don't compare them to 20-year-olds of
the past. They compare them to the 35-year-olds of today or the 50-year-olds of today.
So what's my point? If we're going to make a comparison, let's not just look at generations. Let's look
at life stages.
Back to both authors:
In our research for this book, we surveyed a large number of ministers about their volunteers. We asked
specific questions about the differences between the generations. As the responses poured in, we began to
notice a pattern. Most people didn't compare the generations to each other-like "apples to apples." Most of
the volunteer leaders in the world of children's and youth ministry compared today's life stages to each
other. One of the responses we received from a 20-something youth minister was classic:
What I've found with older people is that, yes, they might be loyal to me as a leader. But they view
youth ministry or their volunteering as exactly that, volunteering. Don't get me wrong; they
love students. But what I've noticed is that if you call them to give more of their free time, they
won't do it. Or you have to beat them to do it. I'm not quite sure why, but it just seems that they
view ministry as more of an event on a night of the week. Now that being said, the college students are
quite the opposite as far as involvement, passion, and their ability to follow. (Brandon)
I loved Brandon's answer-first, because I forced him to qualify the word older. He replied by
saying, "Old like you [referring to me]." After I finished beating the crap out of him, I asked him if he
actually knew how old I was. He was close. He guessed that I'm 35, and I was 36 at the time. Either way...
Dad... that makes you ancient!
Second, I loved his reply because it shows the disparity in how different ages view each other. Brandon would
rather recruit "young singles" than "married with kids." So was he making a comparison between Generation @
and Gen X? Far from it. Even if he didn't use the term, he was really comparing life stages.
I'm textbook Generation X. When I was 20, I volunteered with a youth group. I helped out on Sundays and
Wednesdays, I led a small group of guys, and I regularly had all-night lock-ins at my house. I was 20 and
full of spunk.
But now I'm 37, and I have three kids. Let's just say that I've been "despunked." During the week, my wife
and I pick up the kids from school at different times, and take them to swimming, gymnastics, and karate
(they all have their own sport). In our "spare time," we try to get all of them to their separate school and
youth group activities. Recently, we even blocked out Tuesday nights just so we could have a family night
with no other activities. On this night, our girls skip swimming and no one is allowed to book any activities.
Why? We're overloaded. And most of my friends in this life stage find themselves in the same boat.
This doesn't mean that people in this life stage don't volunteer. Last year, my wife and I both volunteered
in the junior high group at our church. And we were just like Brandon described. We volunteered on Wednesday
nights only. Why? We were already driving our son there for youth group, and our daughters were in activities
in the building across the quad. So we thought, "Might as well stick around and help." But we were too
swamped with other activities to volunteer beyond that.
Is that the stigma of Generation X? Not at all. It truly is a life stage thing.
In fact, a decade ago, I was in Brandon's shoes. I was a youth worker who, looking for "loyal" volunteers,
found the majority of them in Gen X young singles. Now those same people-that same generation-is "married with
children" and less likely to become loyal volunteers for Brandon or any other youth minister.
Same generation, different life stage.
Most "married with kids" won't volunteer overtime. They're tapped out. Don't call it a Gen X thing. Wait a
decade or two until their kids are out of the house, and you'll see that it was a life stage thing. They'll
be available like increasing numbers of older Boomers are now.
Two Willing Groups
Back to both authors:
So what? We could fill the rest of this book with a discussion about generations and life stages. But that
doesn't help us get volunteers. So let's cut to the chase: Who should we try to recruit?
The 21st century has seen the rise of two huge groups that are ready, willing, and excited to help you
accomplish your mission. If you're not tapping into these two resources, you're missing a great opportunity
to expand your volunteer base.
We've hinted at this already, but these two groups consist of retiring members of the Baby Boomer generation
and older members of Generation @. Some of the characteristics of these two groups are purely generational.
But even more of their qualities are distinctive of a given life stage. Because these groups are available
now as volunteers, it's valuable to examine both their generational characteristics and their current life
I am going to discuss my generation-the retiring professional culture. I'm just a bit older than the
sociological definition of Boomers. But I do represent sort of an older professional Boomer culture that is
just beginning to retire. So I'll take a look at the best ways to recruit and manage us.
Then I'm going to discuss members of Generation @ who are volunteering in great numbers. Again, I'm a Gen Xer,
but I've had a lot of contact with Generation @ volunteers and made some observations about how to recruit and
Retiring Boomer Professionals
Let's take a look at these older professionals who are at or near retirement. Paul McCartney included these
words in his song "When I'm Sixty-Four":
When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now . . .
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride,
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more . . .
When I'm sixty-four.
This song came out when Paul McCartney was in his 20s, but he was only a teenager when he wrote it. That's
how he viewed getting old-losing his hair, sitting by a fireplace knitting a sweater, going for a Sunday drive,
and pulling weeds. But in 2006 Paul McCartney turned 64. This was the same year I turned 64. Although we're not
officially part of the post-World War II babies called "Boomers" who started turning 60 in 2006, I identify with
this growing number of potential volunteers. These older professionals are entering their retirement years with
an unparalleled vigor-to use a John F. Kennedy word. Smack in the middle of the Boomer group are people
like Robin Williams (born in 1951), Denzel Washington (born in 1954), and Tom Hanks (born in 1956).
To put it mildly, the retiring professionals of today aren't fulfilling McCartney's picture of the 64-year-old.
We're a different kind of graying generation. Walk by any clubhouse of an "active adult living community" (you
have to be over 55 to live there), and you'll find that Sinatra is out. You'll hear music by the Eagles and
Sting. We're not your father's grandfather.
The young people of the 1960s were this leading edge of the Boomer generation. We challenged the system.
We grew up in an age of growth and prosperity. Our parents worked hard to make sure that they could send us to
college. In the early 1960s, we heard President Kennedy say, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask
what you can do for your country." And many of us did just that, volunteering for the Peace Corps and making
an impact on the "Great Society."
But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, everything changed. Vietnam, the assassinations of the Kennedys and
Martin Luther King, Jr., and controversies like Watergate greatly influenced us. Many of us turned inward.
During the 1970s and 1980s, many of our generation followed the advice of EST (Erhard Seminars Training) and
Self magazine and read bestsellers like Looking Out for Number One. And during this time, we were
raising Generation X.
Now that we've entered the 21st century, many of us realize that living for self has not been the fulfilling
life we expected. In spite of our selfishness, we volunteer because the "I want to change the world" of the
1960s still beats in our hearts. The "graying of the Peace Corps" provides a good example, as people in their
50s and 60s leave lucrative careers to join the Peace Corps and other organizations with social or spiritual
missions. Volunteering offers a way to fulfill our passions.
When Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four," the average life expectancy was 69.7. So he was singing about
an age just five years away from death. Now, however, life expectancy is at least 13 years past 64 and growing
each day with medical advancements and innovations. Paul and the rest of us in his "64 Club" (Harrison Ford,
Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, and Muhammad Ali) probably don't relate to the picture he painted back then
of knitting by the fireside in a rocking chair.
In fact, many of my friends in this age group are more active in volunteer work than they have ever been. They
bring their experience and professional skills to the volunteer organizations where they serve. Most of them
say, "I've never been so busy, and I love it."
Recruiting the Retiring Professional
While retiring professionals love to volunteer, volunteer managers must still be careful when they recruit
this new and growing 21st-century resource. Here are three very important factors to remember.
Retiring professionals want to make a difference. Retiring professionals don't just want to make
a contribution, they desire a significant role making a difference. These people were ready to change the world
in the 1960s, and they still strongly believe in causes. So make sure that your mission is something that
people can get excited about.
My wife, Susie-who will quickly point out that she is not yet 64-is an ESL (English as a second language)
college professor teaching graduate students. I've been a speaker and trainer for more than 40 years, and we
dream about volunteering to teach overseas. So the last thing we want to do is stuff envelopes somewhere. We
want to fulfill a dream!
Does that mean we as boomers are not interested in getting our hands dirty or doing labor? Not at all! We're
not afraid of jumping in with a team when a job needs to get done. In fact, we've stuffed thousands of envelopes,
set up hundreds of chairs and tables, cleaned dozens of bathrooms, and swept countless floors. However, the
organization that uses high-quality, professionally trained volunteers only to do unskilled labor will
lose many retiring professional volunteers. Boomers want to be recruited to use a lifetime of experience to
help you accomplish your vision. And we're not alone.
In fact, you might be thinking, "That sounds like what you said about the younger generation." Yes, the younger
generation also wants to use their professional skills to help accomplish your vision. The difference between
the two is this: The younger generation will tell you upfront that they don't want to stuff envelopes or other
trivial tasks. Retiring professionals will probably accept the job, but they won't volunteer for you again.
Wow! You "really old" people are passive-aggressive.
I guess we could be like your generation-disrespectful.
Shut up! I mean, yes, Father, you're right. And truthfully, I gotta give you props for sticking it out for a day,
even when you don't want to be there.
Oh, yeah-I forgot that I'm talking to someone who remembers what he was doing when Kennedy was shot. "Props"
means credit or recognition. It's like, "Hey, Dad, props to you for making it through that movie without having
to go to the bathroom!"
Now let's get back to retiring professionals.
Retiring professionals aren't afraid of commitment. Let's be more specific. This older generation
of potential volunteers isn't afraid of commitment when there's a payoff. The payoff could be your cause, or a
benefit to us.
A very popular volunteer program for retired professionals is the Master Gardener Program offered by many
communities. New Master Gardeners are required to contribute 50 hours of community volunteer work over 12 months.
Every year thereafter, the program requires 25 hours of volunteer activity.
Each spring, volunteers attend a one-hour class each week for 15 weeks. Applicants must attend all 15 classes and
pay a fee for materials. University specialists, horticulture advisors, and community experts teach the classes.
Topics include introduction to horticulture, water and fertilizer management, planting and maintenance of trees,
and so forth. After attending all the sessions and after completing all the weekly quizzes and a final exam,
trainees receive a graduation certificate. Retiring professionals willingly make the commitment to programs like
Master Gardener because of the payoff. Part of the "what's in it for me" attitude remains relevant for Boomers,
and they'll commit to training, study, dues, and even long-term obligations when they feel it's worth it.
Retiring professionals want flexibility. They're often on the go, so they appreciate flexibility.
You might think this sounds like a contradiction, because the commitment of the Master Gardener program seems
like a lot. It is at first-but after the 15 weeks, the program has a lot of flexibility. This just demonstrates
that retired professionals are willing to pay their dues, but they want flexibility as part of the payoff, too.
Jim, a retired dentist, volunteers for the local chapter of the Rotary Club. He paints and cleans for an inner
city project because he really cares about the problems of the inner city. Yet at times, the Rotary Club won't
see Jim for a long time, because Jim and his wife, Sue, travel about six months of the year.
When Jim and Sue are home, they spend a lot of time volunteering. Jim would never volunteer to be on a board
that required regular meetings. But he loves projects. Last year, Jim and Sue spent six months working in an
orphanage in Eastern Europe doing dental work and even some basic construction work.
Don't miss the opportunity to recruit the retiring professional. They want to make a difference, they aren't
afraid of commitments, and they like flexibility.
IN TWO WEEKS-PART II: The Young Professionals
How would you describe the leading edge of Generation @-specifically, the part of this new generation of young
professionals currently in their 20s? This includes people like LeBron James (born in 1984), Hilary Duff
(born in 1987), and Lindsay Lohan (born in 1986). Are these 20-somethings a good source of volunteers?
This article was from Chapter Four of Jonathan's new book from GROUP PUBLISHING,
The New Breed.
IN STOCK! CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
Here's a glimpse of the Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Common Predicament
Where It All Begins
SECTION ONE: THE VOLUNTEER RECRUITER
Chapter 1: Who Is the New Breed of Volunteer?
A Profile of the 21st Century Volunteer
Chapter 2: Recruiting the New Breed of Volunteers
The "Courting" Relationship
Chapter 3: Finding the New Breed of Volunteers (Not Scaring Them Away)
The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers
Chapter 4: Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
Retiring "Boomers" and "Generation @"
SECTION TWO: THE VOLUNTEER MANAGER
Chapter 5: Motivating the New Breed of Volunteers
Discover Three Levels of Motivation
Chapter 6: Empowering Volunteers to Do It Their Way
Move from Delegation to Empowerment
Chapter 7: Managing the Virtual Volunteer
Virtual Volunteers and Using Technology
Chapter 8: Managing High Maintenance Volunteers
Performance Coaching the Volunteer from Hell
SECTION THREE: THE VOLUNTEER LEADER
Chapter 9: Leading the Successful Volunteer Organization
Mobilize the Collective Power of Volunteers
Chapter 10: A Leadership Case Study
A Fable of How to Do It Right
SECTION FOUR: RESOURCES
CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THE BOOK AND TO GET A COPY SIGNED BY BOTH AUTHORS & FREE U.S. SHIPPING!)
- Sample Position Charter
- Sample Project Charter
- Interview Guide for Hiring a Paid "Volunteer Manager"
- Sample Questionnaire for Virtual Volunteers
- Sample Board Code of Conduct
- Strategic Planning Retreat - Agenda of Questions
- SWOT Analysis Form
- Ice-Breakers and Openers
- Team Building Activities
- Sample Training Exercise-A Case Study
New Podcast: Jonathan, Brandon and Saddleback's Kurt Johnston talk about whether "programming works"
PODCAST "EPISODE 8" IS UP!
Listen to it for free on iTunes now!
Or, if you don't have iTunes already... jump on Apple's
web page for a free
download, then click on our
Is Program a bad word? If so... how do we make "first contact" with kids today?
Jonathan, Brandon and Saddleback's Jr. High Ministry Director Kurt Johnston wrestle with the effectiveness of "programming"
in youth ministry today. Join them as they tackle some great questions like...
Join Jonathan, Brandon and Kurt as they try to answer these questions, discuss examples of "programs" that
work and speculate why they are effective.
- Does the word "programming" mean big lights, videos, smoke and a monster truck voice? Or is sitting around
praying also a form of "program?" Kurt proposes a definition for the word "program" helping us take a closer look
at the "stuff we do."
- What is fun? Is a game "eating baby food out of a jar" fun and "small groups" not... or is the inverse true?
- What part of "programming" are people resisting?
- What is the difference between being "event driven" and simply using "program" as a tool?
CLICK HERE FOR OUR PODCAST PAGE
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