Baby Boomers

woman with childrenBorn between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers represent America’s largest generational cohort (approx. 77 million). They were shaped by television, civil rights, anti-war protests, the sexual revolution, feminism, gay activism, and consumerism. They lived through the Cuban missile crisis, a Presidential assassination, the British invasion (Beatles, Rolling Stones), the Vietnam War, a lunar landing, Earth Day, Woodstock, Watergate, and the onset of HIV/AIDS. Dubbed the “Me Generation,” they are antiauthoritarian, idealistic, innovative, and self-empowered.

While 4 out of 5 expect to work past the traditional retirement age, Boomers are attractive candidates for volunteer engagement. In particular:

  • Boomers are expected to live longer and retain their health longer than any previous generation.
  • Boomers are the most educated and financially secure generation in history. They want lifelong learning opportunities. They will inherit substantial wealth, some of which will be earmarked for charity.
  • They are computer savvy and have vast social networks.
  • They expect to leave a social legacy. They have professional skills and experience that they want to share for high impact.
  • 7 of 10 Boomers who volunteer will do so for one or more years.

Our Learning Community has determined that successful Boomer engagement programs:

  • Reach Boomers through peers and work. They are most likely to volunteer when asked by someone with whom they have an established relationship.
  • Provide flexibility. Between work, travel, and caring for parents, children, and grandchildren, Boomers have high demands on their time. They are drawn to organizations that accommodate their lifestyles.
  • Treat Boomers as colleagues. Boomers value opportunities for social interaction and want to feel as though they are part of a team.
  • Develop volunteer activities that really Volunteers want to know that their time is well spent and directly impacts outcomes.
  • Are organized and professional. Effective management is a sign of respect for volunteers’ time.
  • Set clear expectations. Volunteers can work on projects independently once parameters are established. They are more than willing to take direction from staff. Lack of clear expectations, directions, and assigned tasks lead volunteers to feel underutilized.
  • Provide relevant training using adult learning models. Boomers value opportunities for continuous learning and skill development.
  • Provide consultative support. Volunteers need, and want, feedback from teachers and the organization. They want to know that they are appreciated and that they are adding value.
  • Prepare staff for effective Boomer engagement. Staff sets the stage for meaningful assignments, collegial working relationships, and the warm, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Communicate effectively. Volunteers want a consistent, effective communications stream with the organization.
  • Offer rewards and recognition that are meaningful to Boomer volunteers.

Baby Boomer Resources

videoBoomers and Babies, an initiative of the Oregon Community Foundation to engage Boomers in early childhood education

reportReinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement (Harvard School of Public Health and MetLife Foundation)

article Experience Making a Difference: Uncovering the Secrets to Effectively Engaging and Working in the Social Sector (Jay Bloom)

articleThe Health Benefits of Volunteering (Corporation for National & Community Service)

bookBoomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow (Jill Friedman Fixler and Sandie Eichberg, with Gail Lorenz)

bookBoomer Volunteer Engagement: Facilitator’s Tool Kit (Jill Friedman Fixler and Beth Steinhorn)

videoThe Big Idea in 4 Minutes: Coming of Age in Aging America (Vital Pictures)