I just got back from a talk about the changing labor force in Maine.

It’s a very complex and challenging picture. The short form is that we’re facing an aging population without the evidence of a younger people coming in to fill the jobs. And the older people that are retiring still have many more productive years ahead of them. I blogged about this last October in a post called The “Silver Tsunami”

How is your nonprofit planning on dealing with this?

Here are some thoughts that came up:

Prepare for new volunteer work habits

You’ll need to proactively develop new work policies. Many people that are past retirement will want to work, but not as full-time, 40-hour per week employees. Nor will many of them need traditional things like health benefits. Many will have these with their retirement packages.

I’d imagine that things like flexible scheduling and ability to have grandchildren shadowing them may be pieces of the new work policies.

Prepare for very skilled volunteers

Take a stroll around your organization. Pay attention to your volunteers and the work you give them.

Most of our nonprofits give volunteers jobs of the stamp-licking, paper folding variety. And our volunteers have been fine with that.

But the Boomers that are retiring have technical skills and leadership training and a desire to prove themselves. They will chafe at mindless jobs. Is your nonprofit ready for these volunteers, ones most of us will see as “more demanding”?

I’d encourage you to start thinking about what aspects of your organization’s work could use these “temporary volunteer consultants.” Do your financial and accounting systems need looking over? Could your staff value from periodic leadership or skills training?

One think to look out for: be sure to somehow shape these positions to insulate them a bit. Volunteers of this caliber tend to get passionate about your cause and feel that their opinions are the only way to run your organization. If you’re not careful, their well-meaning over enthusiasm can wreak havoc in an organization.

Some ways to cushion this could be by defining the authority and limits of the volunteer roles. Does the volunteer speak for the organization? Or are they there to help a particular aspect of the organization? Just because they have been CEO’s in previous chapters of their lives, they don’t have to run your organization. It’s not that they’re power hungry. But they’re just used to being in charge so they’ll often do what seems so natural to them.

This may sound harsh but it needs to be talked out before it happens. Damage from unexpected expectations can cause strife not only with your volunteers but also with your staff. Addressing these issues up front can help prevent fires before they come up.

Proactively seek out younger retirees as volunteers

Get ready, the silver tsunami has already started. The first Boomer to receive Social Security benefits was Kathleen Casey-Kirschling. She received them at the first of this year.

This changing demographic can be an incredibly amazing boon to strapped nonprofits. These volunteers are technologically astute. They are leaders. And they have decades of life experience that can be tapped into and learned from.

Is your nonprofit ready?

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