Having reached the point where over 40% of Boomers have turned age 65, what trends are we seeing in their retirement volunteering? Back in 2010 when Boomers were approaching retirement age, MAVA advised organizations that this generation had potential as retiree volunteers but to capture their interest organizations would have to make changes. Nine years later, what have we learned?
- Boomers are not retiring at exactly 65. As predicted many Boomers, about 20%, are working past 65. However, not expected was the number of early retirees, with a recent study finding 26% of Boomers leaving the workforce before age 65. For most, the early retirement was unexpected due to health problems, caregiving or being forced out of the job market.
- Boomers are volunteering a lot, but not at a higher rate than before retirement. The 2019 Volunteering in America report found Boomers as the powerhouse generation of volunteers with more hours of service per year than any other generation. However, there is no evidence that more Boomers are volunteering after retirement than prior to retirement. The Boomer volunteer rate over the years has hovered between 30 and 32%.
- We do not know yet if the number of hours per year by volunteers 65+ will drop after Boomers compose the majority of this age group. The common assumption is that while Boomers will volunteer at a high rate, that they will give fewer hours per year in retirement than the previous generation. A key statistic to watch is the Bureau of Labor Statistics median hours per volunteer 65+. The most recent statistic from 2015, after Boomers entered the 65+ group, shows the median hour per volunteer at 94 hours/year, just slightly lower from the 94 hours per year in 2010 before Boomers started turning 65.
- Some organizations report success with Boomer volunteers. In the MAVA 2018 Trends Survey we heard that, “The unique interests of Baby Boomers aren't changing but we're relying on them more.” Clearly many organizations were making adaptations to appeal to Boomers by offering flexible, shorter-term, and/or skills-based volunteer opportunities, and with this were having success. However, some organizations reported, “Where are the Boomers?” and had not figured out how to capture Boomer’s interest. To learn more about how to appeal to Boomers, see MAVA tips for engaging Boomers.
- Boomers are not driving shorter term volunteerism as much as initially thought. When the shorter-term volunteerism trend started, Boomers got the bad rap for driving the trend. However, the MAVA shorter-term volunteerism research in 2015, found that although organizations were seeing some shorter-term volunteering among Boomers, this trend was more prevalent with Millennials and Gen Xers.
- Many Boomers are puzzled on how to find volunteer engagement as they retire. MAVA learned from the research directly with Boomer volunteers that factors leading to this puzzlement included:
• Misconceptions, such as having to be available for weekly volunteering.
• Difficulty translating their interests and skills into what would be of interest as a volunteer position.
• Not aware of what is out there for volunteer possibilities.
Since MAVA started the 2010 Boomer volunteerism initiative, Boomers have continued to top the charts on volunteer rates and are clearly not a generation to ignore. However, it appears that we are not having much success yet in getting Boomers who did not volunteer when they were younger to volunteer once retired and to capture the potential of the large Boomer generation. We still need more widespread updates to volunteer engagement practices by organizations and increased investment of resources for promoting volunteer opportunities.