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Want to Keep Older Volunteers? Train and Honor Them

An elderly volunteer with a child in Senegal. Photo courtesy of Projects Abroad.

The Baby Boomer generation is retiring, offering a huge pool of potential volunteers for nonprofit organizations. But how can these organizations keep older volunteers happy and coming back for more?

A study published in the September issue of the National Association of Social Workers’ Social Work Research journal (Vol. 33, No. 3) offers answers. Researchers collected data from 401 volunteers from 13 volunteer programs across the nation.

The results: volunteers who received good training and were recognized for their work were more likely to volunteer for long terms. Contrary to the original hypothesis, giving volunteers incentives such as stipends was “negatively related” to volunteer retention, the study.

Keeping long-term volunteers is crucial for non-profit organizations because it helps improve quality of benefits and services.

The study was done by Dr. Fenyang Tang, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work; Dr. Nancy Morrow-Howell, a Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work; and Songiee Hong, MA, a doctoral candidate at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

The National Association of Social Workers offers members an array of cutting-edge publications. To subscribe to Social Work Research or purchase other NASW books and journals visit the NASW Press Web page by clicking here.

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