All family history societies rely on volunteeers. Most have a constant struggle to find and keep them so there should be value in a just released Volunteeer Canada report on what Canadians want in their volunteer experiences, their issues in finding satisfying volunteer roles, and what organizations can do to enhance their volunteer base, achieve their missions and ultimately build stronger communities.
It aims to provide practical information for use by volunteer organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers among four specific demographic groups including baby boomers, the group most pertinent for family history societies.
In general the research finds the optimal formula to build organizational capacity and strategically engage volunteers is one that strikes a balance between:
- Designing specific, set roles and being open to volunteers initiating/defining the scope of what they can offer;
- Being well organized but not too bureaucratic; and
- Matching skills to the needs of the organization but not assuming that everyone wants to use the skills related to their profession, trade, or education.
Boomer Volunteer Interests
- Activities that reinforce their strong sense of social commitment
- Organizations that allow boomer volunteers to work independently and have a sense of ownership over the project
- Projects where boomers can clearly see the impact they are making
- Activities that offer a chance to act outside their skill/knowledge base (boomers perceived activities different from their daily work to be refreshing)
- Casual or short-term opportunities where boomers can see what the organization is like before making along-term commitment
- Smaller organizations that need volunteers to do ‘everything’ and don’t match boomers’ skills with tasks
- The perception that larger organizations are downloading the responsibility of unwanted tasks from staff to volunteers
- Not being recognized as a person with a wide skill set, but simply ‘a volunteer body’