Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 2, 2012

Conference speaker says all generations needed to volunteer


MT. VERNON — A lively and enthusiastic crowd gathered in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn for the annual Volunteerism Conference Thursday to discuss ideas and learn from each other.

Faith Roberts was one of the keynote speakers and she concentrated on the generational differences of volunteers from the pre-baby boomers to the millennial generations.

Roberts has been a nurse for 36 years and said hospitals are just one organization which depend on volunteers to help with the workload. She said one of the biggest concerns for those who work with volunteers today is the need to find people who are willing to volunteer in the millennial generation when the pre-baby boomer generation can no longer do so.

“Volunteering used to be social for the older generation,” Roberts explained. Many were women who stayed at home and would use volunteering opportunities as a time to get together with their friends and make a day of it.

Nowadays, she pointed out, it is harder to find younger people who are willing to volunteer their time because they don’t want to give up too much of their free time.

“We need to restructure what a volunteer looks like,” she said. “It’s also about understanding that [the] innate good feeling we get from volunteering is the same for every generation.”

Roberts pointed out it is important to understand there are differences between how the older generations and the younger generations communicate as well. What might sound insulting to an older volunteer, such as asking “why?” when one is asked to do something may just be the younger generations way of finding out how what they are doing is helping.

“No matter what your agency, no matter where you work, diversity is so big you can’t wrap you hands around it,” she said.

Roberts explained that because of the different ways people grew up, expectations of what people expect to get out of a volunteering experience are different. She said this is not because the younger generation does not want to volunteer, they just view it differently.

There is no black and white or right or wrong how the many generations volunteer, Roberts pointed out. She said the important thing is to remember how to communicate with each other and also to know how to change with the times.