Life-Stages VS Generations of Volunteers

How many of us have attended a training or webinar in the last year on working with a specific generation of volunteers? If you’re like me, you have had too many to count! Courses such as: Recruiting Millennial Volunteers, Engaging with Gen Z on Social Platforms, and Working with Aging Baby Boomers. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think that there are takeaways from these training’s and in fact I just sat through a great training last week. But I want to make a case for Life-Stages and why I think we should be more inclusive in these discussions.

What is a Life-Stage?

In psychology, life stages refer to the different phases of life that all individual pass through in a normal lifetime. These are the stages (interests, actions, behaviors) that are common and uniform throughout the human race such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, mid-life and old age. This provides a far more effective classification system based on life stages and events; such as single or married, kids or no kids, employed or unemployed, attending school or in the workforce, etc. Events that truly shape us are our life events, and those experiences don’t happen in the chronological order that they used to.

Let’s look at a sample volunteer to get a better picture!

You have Jim who is 25 years old and has been married for two years with no kids.

  • What volunteer position would you have Jim do for your organization?
  • How would you market a volunteer opportunity to him?
  • What times would he have available to come in to the office and volunteer?

Now with those answers in mind, pretend you needed to fill that same roll, would you choose John or Sam to ask first?

  • John is 27 years old and is married with two kids.
  • Sam is 45 years old and is single with no kids.

Did you make your decision off their age or their life? The Generational model would have you believe that you should approach John as he would be interested in similar opportunities and communication strategies due to his age and generation, but Sam is a more like-minded target audience.

Where do we go from here?

In today’s world we operate off stereotypes to make our jobs easier as we engage volunteers ages 5 to 99 in the work of our organizations. The current way we discuss generational volunteering is lacking so I propose to you today to attack your work tomorrow with both generations and life stages in minds. I hope you agree that life stages represent a real opportunity for a unified target audience that is inclusive to all potential volunteers and can be a helpful tool in our toolbox as a profession.

Recommended Reading:

Life-Stage VS Generational Marketing Strategies

One Comment Add yours

  1. Rob Jackson says:

    It’s great to have you in the vol leadership blogging community Cairn! I like your take on this issue. Personally, I think a mix of life stages and generational perspectives is most helpful. Generations do share some common characteristics which it is worth knowing and understanding but, as you say, those can vary within a group which is where the life stages analysis can add depth.

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