Expect the Volunteer Boom to Show Up at Your Organization Right After the Massive Generational Wealth Transfer

The red nonprofit herring of our time was the Great Wealth Transfer, in which trillions of dollars would seep out of the wills and estates of people who were not terribly charitable during their lifetime but would apparently become so in their deaths, thus freeing nonprofits from having to do, you know, actual work to help champions develop philanthropically.

Next up in the nonprofit myth cycle?

The Great Volunteer Boom, in which millions of baby boomers will stream into nonprofit organizations to offer countless hours of service.

One of my favorite bloggers, Joanne Fritz, brings two articles on voluntarism to our attention, and the one does a great job of preventing us from misreading the other.

The first, Wild Apricot’s Are Your Ready for the Volunteer Boom?, contains data well worth reviewing:

There are 77 million Baby Boomers – between the ages of 46 and 64 – in the US and another 10 million across Canada. Based on sheer numbers alone, this group represents a boon to the volunteer world. But it gets even better – “boomers” are also generally well educated, wealthy and skilled individuals who have already proven their willingness to volunteer – with nearly a third of boomers volunteering for formal organizations. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service’s “Baby Boomers & Volunteering” issue brief, these Boomer volunteers:

  • Have the highest volunteer rate of any age group. The volunteer rates for boomers – 33.2% – is the highest of any age group.
  • Volunteer an average of 51 hours a year. With the exception of people over the age of 65, boomers volunteer the most of any group.

The predicted volunteer boom turns on the same failed logic as the generational wealth transfer, namely, that individuals who have not chosen to volunteer before the age of 65–which would encompass the time their children were in school, their membership in a faith community (which, statistically, is not likely to change much at retirement), and their holiday celebration patterns (like volunteering at a rescue mission at Thanksgiving)–are now going to become voluntaristic when they retire, as opposed to remaining as self-focused as they have been in the 65 years prior.

Anyone want to take that bet?

At the other end of the spectrum, Joanne notes a great article on Philanthro-teens delving into the nonprofit world.

But guess what? It’s not your nonprofit world they’re delving into:

Borrowing from trends in celebrity charity, kids are mobilizing their peers to address everything from infant mortality in developing nations to neighborhood concerns. They’re donating presents to charity, and they’re establishing their own nonprofits.

“The number of kids creating their own organizations and taking action for causes they care about is skyrocketing,” said Nancy Lublin, chief executive of DoSomething.org, a New York-based nonprofit that helps young people to engage in philanthropy.

“Kids today just saw their parents go through a recession, get laid off and struggle,” Ms. Lublin said. “They look around and say: ‘What’s the point? I don’t just want a second car in my driveway. I want a life of purpose.’ ”

And that life of purpose means starting a nonprofit organization of one’s own rather than getting a job that yields the cash to fund not only the second car in the driveway but the support of other people’s nonprofits.

Where does it all point?

Well, definitely away from a boom of people–young or old–eager to support you as you live out your dream of professional nonprofit service.

But towards success for any nonprofit bold and savvy enough to exist as a platform where people young and old can be equipped to tackle the cause drawing on their own unique insights using their own unique gifts.

A nonprofit that serves as the stage and not the actor can definitely expect a major boom in the years to come.

But a nonprofit that serves as the actor?

That boom is just about to go bust.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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5 Responses to Expect the Volunteer Boom to Show Up at Your Organization Right After the Massive Generational Wealth Transfer

  1. Roy says:

    Well said, Eric.

  2. Joanne Fritz says:

    I love showing up in your blog posts! And this is a good one. Isn’t it great that we have such terrific activity at both ends of the generational life span?

  3. Todd says:

    Mission agencies across the land prior to 2008 asked each other, “Do you ever think anything will slow down the short-term mission boom?” World health ‘crisis’ likes SARS did not slow it down. Terrorism did not slow it down. So we all wondered if anything would ever slow it down. Then crash went the economy and along with it went the short-term mission boom. Short-term teams dropped all over the place as church budgets and personal budgets ran short. Eric’s post helps us not to be naive about seeing today’s’ volunteer in the same light as we saw yesterday’s.

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