Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler Group

Jun 22, 2015 12:00 PM ET

Originally found in the VolunteerMatch blog: Engaging Volunteers

VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Beth Steinhorn, President, JFFixler Group.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
The Great Boomer Volunteer Revolution: Boom or Bust? is a fun and informative retrospective on how the predictions for boomers and their volunteering panned out.

Between the bookends of two real life case studies from organizations that have successfully engaged baby boomers in meaningful roles, my chapter explores the predictions about baby boomers and volunteering that were prolific around 2006 when the first boomer turned 60, and then traces how the economic downturn of 2008 and beyond affected boomers and their volunteering habits.

The chapter also includes tips on how to successfully engage boomers, all drawn from organizations that continue to do so effectively.

Why is this topic important?
The boomer generation numbers more than 70 million and represents a tremendous resource of talent and skill – not to mention passion and commitment – to serve.

Organizations have an opportunity to harness that talent on behalf of their cause. Yet, research and practical experience show that boomers have a consumer mindset when it comes to volunteering – if they do not find what they are looking for at your organization, they will take their time and talent elsewhere. It is incumbent upon the organization to provide appealing opportunities for boomers. When they do, they will have access to an abundant resource.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I began my nonprofit career in museums, working with one of the largest volunteer cadres in the nation. At that institution, we partnered with volunteers in multiple ways and  were on the cutting edge of engagement before the terms we use so frequently today were even coined. “Skills based volunteers” helped in the paleontology lab, “pro bono volunteers” consulted on evaluation and curriculum development, “high impact volunteers” worked throughout the organization from visitor services to development to gallery interpretation to collections management.

I had the privilege of training volunteers, partnering with volunteers, engaging a volunteer research partner who co-authored published papers with me, and was inculcated into a culture where volunteers were part of the fabric of the institution at every level. In other words, I lived the ideal. After stints in other nonprofits in marketing and as an executive director, I began consulting with organizations to help them embrace volunteer engagement as a business strategy.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect back on the predictions from 2006 and 2007 and connect the proverbial dots from some of our own writing at that time (Boomer Volunteer Engagement andBoomer Volunteer Engagement: The Facilitator’s Tool Kit, also published in partnership with VolunteerMatch) to the current trends around how boomers volunteer.

As I am in all my daily work around volunteer engagement, I am fascinated by how the economic recession that started in 2008 affected volunteering trends. Whether the original predictions around boomer volunteering panned out or not, I will leave to the chapter to reveal. What I will share, however, is that researching this chapter enabled me to gather more hard data to support tactics that successful nonprofits are employing to engage boomer volunteers today.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Try one new thing. Do your research and learn what is working for other organizations in terms of engaging boomers – and then pick one and give it a try. When you pilot something new, you have the chance to learn what works and what doesn’t, and then build from there.

To read Beth’s full chapter, The Great Boomer Volunteer Revolution: Boom or Bust?, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.