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Volunteer Management - Motivation and Recruitment

Introduction edit

This chapter provides recommendations for the management of older volunteers in online communities. It also concisely lists the tasks of the volunteers’ manager. Finally, this chapter offers concrete examples of (online and offline) tasks that older volunteers may perform in online communities.

Following questions are answered in this chapter:

  • What are hands-on recommendations for the management of older volunteers?
  • What motivates older adults to perform volunteer work? How can online communities adapt to their motivation pattern?
  • What are practical do’s & dont’s about the recruitment, binding and activation of older volunteers?
  • What are examples of volunteer tasks that older adults can perform for online communities?

Recommendations for the management of older volunteers edit

This paragraph provides recommendations concerning the management of older volunteers. These do’s and don’ts are valid for volunteers in general, and for older volunteers in online communities in particular. In addition, a short overview of efficient recruitment channels for older volunteers is offered.

Recommendations to motivate older volunteers edit

Do's Don'ts
Build strong social relationships and personal contacts inside the organization Overcharge the volunteer
Provide support from the staff Not provide enough support
Give a positive evaluation of the job one performs Create or tolerate a climate of harsh criticism
Provide training, development of competencies and empowerment Settle for a strategy that is not clear (no clear working goals)
Offer an interesting job with some autonomy
Create and protect a culture of open feedback and information
Recognize the volunteer’s value
Establish clear and binding rules for everyone
Organize a clear starting program for beginning volunteers

Recommendations to activate older volunteers edit

Do's Don'ts
Distribute an interesting newsletter External communication about internal conflicts
Provide training or education No training or time to get acquainted with the organization
Have an active community management (plan and organize activities) Leave the volunteers on their own, not asking for their experiences
Stimulate the volunteers & take them by the hand No loyalty among employees and volunteers
Engage in personal interaction Engage in disputes or professional discussions
Create links and connections Overpriced service & under-priced service
Detect barriers and try to remove them

Recommendations to bind older volunteers to the online community edit

Do's Don'ts
Enable the exchange of experiences Anonymity
Provide training or education Heavy criticism (destructive)
Arrange open encounters Excessive demand
Provide coaching and training Information overload (irrelevant)
Reward, praise and appreciate the volunteers Unclear orders
Provide role models (e.g. of the same age) No value for money
Provide an user-oriented offer

Recommendations to recruit older volunteers edit

Do's Don'ts
Find volunteers in senior clubs or interest clubs Do not put too much emphasis on the membership in the online community
Be modern and sexy (in the middle of the society) Raise curiosity
Have an appealing website:
  • Attractive
  • Informative
  • Clearly structured
Have an interesting newsletter
Get the help of “warm experts” (acquaintances which they trust) to approach the older adults.

Effective recruitment channels for older volunteers edit

Partner Website and newsletter Combined membership
Fairs Regional meeting Door-to-door magazines
Computer clubs for older adults Communications means TV and radio commercials
(offline) Interest clubs; especially the “computer section” Volunteers database Older adult education

Tasks for the manager of the volunteers edit

The manager of the volunteers has to:

  • Identify activities that can be performed by volunteers
  • Assess which of these tasks would be actually appealing for volunteers
  • Specify the time requirements and the necessary skills for these tasks
  • Set up meeting with volunteers to list specific general terms and conditions
  • Come to a mutual agreement
  • Introduce the volunteer to his/her task, based on an orientation plan
  • Provide the volunteer with information about the future colleagues, offices, rules, goals and the organization's mission statements, materials, etcetera. (Source: Reifenhäuser et al, 2009)

Examples: Possible tasks for older volunteers in online communities edit

Within the TAO-project, many older adults actively volunteered for various online communities, either in online or offline tasks. Often, older persons are not aware of the different kind of (especially offline) tasks they could perform for an online community. Therefore, the latter must actively approach the older adults and inform them about the different online and offline tasks. Some examples to illustrate the variety of volunteering roles for older adults:

Examples from the TAO-project: tasks for older volunteers in online communities

Type of volunteer task Examples of volunteer tasks from TAO-project
Outreach & educational activities:
  • Community ambassador
  • Teacher
  • Course assistant
Web contact services:
  • Website moderator
  • Website host
  • Online contact person
  • ...
  • Become a member of the council
  • Initiate group discussions
  • Organize panels

Practical background edit

For those who want to know more about the management of older volunteers in online communities, this paragraph offers a practical and concise insight in the relevant literature.

Volunteer work in a nutshell: What it is

Although the definition of volunteer work may slightly differ internationally, volunteering could generally be described as “the commitment of time and energy for the benefit of society and the community; the environment; or individuals outside one's own immediate family. It is undertaken freely and by choice, without concern for financial gain" . The more specific term ‘volunteers for online communities’ refers to people who voluntarily work for an online community, and who may perform either online tasks (e.g. preparing a newsletter) or offline tasks (e.g. organizing media courses).

Older volunteers: As diverse as all others

Older adults have diverse desires and needs (as do younger persons), and meeting these various expectations is a challenge for online communities. The range in motivations and expectations of older volunteers (>66 years) is not any different to those of any other age group age 31 and older . Therefore, older adults should be addressed via their personal interests, not as part of an age group. This being said, older volunteers may nevertheless be more motivated by altruism, social duty and personal satisfaction than other age groups.

Online or offline? There’s always something to do

The scale of possible tasks for older volunteers is huge and could range from offline tasks (e.g. teaching a computer class, outreach activities, education, lobby on national policies, and so on) to online tasks (e.g. adding a picture to a Wikipedia-article, creating websites, preparing translations, taking care of the administration, consulting in forums or via email and so on). Online volunteering especially makes sense for tasks that deal with processing information and that do not require team work . It is also a modern option to experience engagement - especially for persons with limited mobility. However, many online communities need volunteers for online as well as offline tasks.

From welcome to goodbye: Relationship building

Online communities should develop a strategy of volunteer management that is well accepted in the community. There should be attention to following stages in the relationship with a volunteer: attracting, accompanying, keeping him/her active, rewarding, saying goodbye. General principles of volunteer management are applicable to all age groups. However, they need to be adapted to the needs of the specific older adult target group that is being addressed. Good volunteer management requires a certain extent of professionalization in the online community.

Literate references edit

  • Bundesministerium für Familien, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (Hrsg.; 2009): Bericht zur Lage und zu den Perspektiven des bürgerschaftlichen Engagements in Deutschland. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Berlin ; Link to online version.
  • Connors, T. D. (2011): The Volunteer Management Handbook. Leadership Strategies for Success, Hoboken: Wiley.
  • The Volunteering Unit (1995), p.3; cited in: Wardell, Lishman & Whalley (2000): Who Volunteers?, in: British Journal of Social Work 30 (2), p.227-248.
  • Hidalgo, M.C. & Moreno, P. (2009): Organizational socialization of volunteers: the effect on their intention to remain, in: Journal of Community Psychology, Volume 37, Issue 5, pages 594–601.
  • Reifenhäuser, C., Hoffmann, S.G. & Kegel, T. (2009). Freiwilligen-Management. Theorie-Politik-Praxis. Augsburg: ZIEL-Verlag.

Links to other Handbook chapters edit

Mutual Benefits of Volunteer Work

Target Groups

Fostering Older Adults Online Participation

Older Adults and Online Communities


Online Community

Activities for Volunteer Instructors