Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Poll Suggests New Pool of Volunteers

A recent USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center poll of Americans feelings about public and community service may have surfaced good news for nonprofits and some associations.

The survey shows that Americans by more than 2-1 say the best way to make positive changes in society is through volunteer organizations and charities rather than through government service.

Those under 30 years are the most likely to feel this way.


Nearly 80 million Americans -- the Millennials -- fit within this age group. They are coming of age. They will be seeking ways to contribute and volunteer.

The question becomes: Will they find fulfillment by volunteering with your organization?


As some 78 million Boomers are reaching retirement age and – with many pulling back from associations and professional societies -- who will fill their shoes?

"These two worlds of civic life and of public life used to be almost the same world, but these worlds have clearly separated," says Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. Among the students he teaches, he sees "a general sense that politics is for losers, for ne'er-do-wells, for the corrupt and for the under-motivated and greedy."

46% want to own their own businesses ... if they succeed, it could mean new segments within your industry or even room for new associations in this niche.

The key question is not whether Boomers will retire, it is when and what they will do with their time in retirement. Will they stick with their existing trade associations and professional societies or will they switch their volunteer time to other causes?


The question is not if Generation Xers and Millenials will move into volunteer leadership roles, it is when and to what organizations and causes.

All associations will be facing this massive generational shift. 
  • It means looking at why you exist, how you exist and what you do. 
  • It means looking at your organizational governance and operating structures – most of which were built by Boomers for Boomers.
“A slight 48 million Americans, Generation X (1965-1981) is situated between two behemoth generations: 78 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and 80 million Generation Ys (1982-1995).”

For some interesting reading on Gen Xers in this transition, be sure to read Sara Sladek’s What Generation X and Mosquitos Have in Common.

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