The Changing Volunteer Culture

I'm finishing up my outlines for three workshops that I'll be presenting at Willowcreek Community Church in a few weeks. One of the themes that keeps cropping up in all of the workshops is that the old rules of engaging volunteers aren't working anymore.

One upon a time in the '50s, there were stay home moms. Dads were at work, bringing home the paycheck. Mothers kept house, which is a noble, but not always an emotionally fulfilling task. Let's face it, it's a hard and thankless duty. So these moms were ready and willing volunteers that were looking to enhance their lives with a cause.

Today, economic realities have changed everything. Don't call it better or worse. It's just different. It takes two working parents, often, to pay the bills. It does in my house. Add the rise of the single working mom and ask yourself: What demographic represents the face of the volunteer?

It's not Gen-X. When I entered the ministry, we Gen-Xers were written about, studied, poked and prodded. We were a mysterious and moody people. Now, we drive mini-vans littered with children and Happy Meal wrappers. We celebrate the dropping of U2's latest album. Do you remember going to the Joshua Tree tour? Awesome! We're simply boring people now, trying to balance career and family. The stay home mom of the '50s is an endangered species. We're able to donate small and consistent blocks of time. We can be role players, but we don't have another arm to lead a cause.

So who makes up the new face of the available volunteer? There's two groups, the young Millennials and the retiring Boomers. Each group has a unique set of skills. Gen-Y is ridiculously tech-savvy. The retiring Boomers are leaving careers with professional skills that they don't want to waste.

Those of us that lead volunteers are quickly realizing that we have to adapt to the needs of these groups. We're learning to be more flexible in how we lead. Web 2.0 has become our friend. Its imperative that we create opportunities for individuals to make a difference while sitting in their boxers at their laptops at 2 AM.

Wade Trimmer, the Director of The Mentoring Project, is running one of these volunteer-friendly organizations. The Mentoring Project has a mission of providing mentors for the sons of single moms. The first goal is to mobilize the church to identify and train 10,000 male mentors.

I'm on one of Wade's teams. It's a dream team of writers, video designers, speakers, and business leaders. I've yet to meet these fine people, but together we're creating the curriculum that churches will use to train potential mentors.

Other teams are creating video shorts. Other teams are doing the actual mentoring. Wade has created a movement that has potential to go viral.

The Mentoring Project is working because Wade has made it incredibly easy for diverse, smart, and energetic volunteers to bring their skills to the table make a difference.

If you want to learn more about the Mentoring Project, look them up at Facebook. Drop in an say "hey" to Wade or Hannah. Tell them a little about yourself. What your skills and talents are. They'll find a way to put you to work. They're keeping me busy.

1 comment:

  1. You're a kind man, Larry. You're also pretty cool and you know martial arts. Thanks for your words here.