There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution when coordinating volunteers, which is part of the fun – but also poses serious challenges.
Communicating with volunteers typically falls into the “challenging” category, especially when you consider the variety of ages represented in your volunteer pool. How can you best manage and effectively communicate to a diverse crowd?
Each life stage has a slightly different set of priorities. By keeping these in your mind both when thinking about your communication strategies and when in the midst of volunteer interactions, you can deftly navigate the sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant differences among your volunteers.
Let’s take a look at some life stages and think through how to best meet each of their needs.
Now let’s be clear before we begin. Retirement age means a lot of different things to different people, but in our context as volunteer managers, age is such a value! Typically speaking, people in this demographic have the most available time and a positive volunteer mindset.
Sometimes this extra time manifests in desiring an abundance of detailed information. Be aware of this in your emails and be sure you’re offering plenty of details to properly equip your volunteers and align your expectations. They may also be the most prone to contact you directly for follow-up questions, but don’t be surprised if lasting friendships develop out of these conversations!
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this demographic is how much they are on. the. go. Whether they’re children are preschoolers or teenagers, college students or adults, parents tend to log a lot of car time and juggle several full schedules. This mindset is incredibly helpful on the day of an event, as they’re well versed in working in a fast-paced, order-in-the-chaos environment. Use that to your advantage!
When considering how to communicate with parents, remember their life is often sorted out in bullet points – and you can make the most of that, too. Keep the most important information in the top three bullet points, and make sure your information is visually organized for easy access. How mobile friendly is your email communication? How can you improve the efficiency your language? Keeping these priorities in mind makes a big impact.
Singles & Newlyweds:
Though some people view Millennials as upholding their current, somewhat-sordid reputation, your volunteer base has a significant deficit without them. Yes, we’re not always great at responding. Yes, we like to keep our options open and trend away from commitment. But when we find something that we believe in? Watch out!
Gaining buy-in from people in this life stage requires connecting the work with a greater cause, but intentionally developing this bridge increases the overall awareness of your event in addition to growing and securing your number of volunteers. Dripping some of this vision language throughout your communication helps people remember why they volunteer with you and grows excitement. Use the creativity and prevalence of social media to connect your event to broader meaning.
Too often people disregard volunteers at both ends of the age spectrum. But don’t count out teenagers! As someone who works with teenagers on a weekly basis, I can attest that with the right blend of autonomy and supervision, these kids will exceed your expectations.
When coordinating student volunteers, keep in mind they may have different challenges than other demographics. They may not have easy access to transportation, not be in the habit of checking email, nor have a lot of experience, but they still have much to offer. Lay out some clear expectations and perhaps an adult partner to model what volunteering is meant to like, and enjoy a fresh infusion of energy!
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is intended to get you thinking about how your volunteers live when they’re not with you. Remembering and celebrating the variety of priorities and challenges of each life stage makes you more effective and makes your event more successful.