Rob Jackson: Four tips for recruiting volunteers from the squeezed middle

The consultant says you have to adapt your volunteer recruitment methods to suit people from Generation X, those born in the 1960s and 1970s

Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson

Last month I wrote about the challenges of recruiting Generation X volunteers. These are people in the generation following the baby boomers and preceding the millennials, people born from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s.

I have had a few people email me since the last article went live saying this was the challenge they faced and asking for advice, so I’m pleased to offer some tips for recruiting Gen X volunteers.

First, although my previous article looked at recruiting Gen X into activities associated with children, remember that not all Gen Xers have kids. Don’t automatically assume they are all looking for things to do with their children or families. Sometimes even those with children want to do something that gives them time away from the kids. Understand who you want to reach, segment the market and target your recruitment accordingly. Gen X, like any other generational cohort, is not a homogeneous group.

Second, make sure your volunteering is flexible (by the way, this is good advice regardless of the generation you are marketing volunteering to). Gen X people are balancing multiple demands on their time and attention in a way the preceding generations did not experience. Your volunteering has to fit in with their lives, not the other way around. Understand what they want, what they can bring and how they’d like to help, then create roles that deliver for them while also benefiting you.

Third, play up the social element of volunteering. Many Gen Xers have moved away from family and friends to follow careers. As the economy has tightened, people have gone to where the work is. Growing numbers of people are living on their own, away from traditional support networks. Relationship break-ups have left many people on their own in the middle of their lives, adrift in a dating scene that has been transformed from when they were young, free and single in the 1980s and 1990s. What opportunities can you create that will allow Gen Xers to make a meaningful contribution to your cause, in the limited time they have available, and that will help them make new friends, or even find new loves in their lives?

Finally, use technology. Gen X was the first generation to have remote controls, microwave ovens and home computers, so its members are not frightened by innovative technology and the potential benefits it brings. They’d prefer to fill in an application form online than on paper. They’d like to manage their volunteering on their smartphones, like they do with their personal finances. They might want to volunteer online as well, rather than have to visit your offices.

What tips have you got for recruiting Generation X volunteers? What has worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Rob Jackson is a volunteering consultant

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