The flood waters are starting to recede in Atlanta (thank goodness!) and now the real work begins. Volunteers are spilling forward, eagerly looking for ways to help neighbors. And leading the way are boomers, whose reputation for volunteering continues, despite the fact that many face their own issues brought on by this rising tide called a recession.
It's not just my observation that informs this opinion. According to the latest Volunteering In America report, boomers continue to give their time, energy and money to volunteerism.
The report even breaks down volunteers by age groups and includes some interesting statistics about boomers, such as:
> In 2008, 29.4 percent of Baby Boomers volunteered, with 22.6 million volunteers giving 3 billion hours of service.
> The volunteer rate for Baby Boomers remained relatively stable from 2007 to 2008 despite an increase in unemployment, a rise in home foreclosures and the largest decline in charitable giving in more than 40 years.
> Baby Boomers’ top volunteering activity was fundraising, with 29.4 percent of the volunteers contributing through that.
> Of the states, Utah had the highest rate of Baby Boomers volunteering, with a volunteering rate of 48.4 percent for the group. Of the large cities included in the report, Minneapolis-St. Paul had the highest rate, with 41.8 percent of Baby Boomer residents volunteering.
The report enables you to check the state of volunteerism in your own state and my review shows that in Georgia, a little more than 1 out of 4 adults volunteer. So, we have some work to do to push our ranking above #41 of the 50 states. Looks like the $250 million-plus damage left by rising waters may just give us a chance to show what we're made of!
The fact is boomers have always been quick to volunteer, but we also are particular about what we do. We want to apply the considerable skills we've acquired over the years to make a difference in our own communities. That's why organizations that want to tap us need to understand our thinking process about volunteering. One group that helps boomers find a good partnership is Volunteer Match, an online site that matches people with causes in a way that benefits both. (There are many similar groups - Google some in your area.)
The Serve America Act, which generated a lot of buzz when proposed by President Obama in the spring, will do doubt light a fire under many boomers. That's why I was glad to see 10% of AmeriCorps funds set aside for organizations that engage people over 55. Boomers are even being asked to consider new careers in the nonprofit world and some money is being set aside to fund the transitions.
Companies that want to attract or retain boomers would do well to consider how closely the company's civic involvement matches the desire of boomers to give back.
Boomer readers - how are your own expectations changing regardng volunteering? Do you feel welcomed and useful to your neighborhood organizations?