You already know how valuable volunteer time can be, but how much thought are you putting into the audiences you're asking to volunteer? According to Pennington, a majority of higher-education giving comes from alumni, meaning your school is uniquely positioned to leverage alumni support. Donations of time can be just as powerful as monetary gifts, making alumni essential volunteer prospects.
That said, organizations need to be flexible and imaginative to make the best use of alumni time and skills. This is especially true for higher education institutions, which have alumni of many different generations.
However, engaging and recruiting alumni volunteers requires flexibility and creativity in making opportunities that align with their skills, schedules, and interests. Fortunately, these factors likely align with the generation they belong to.
With some forethought and innovation, you can transform your volunteer program to engage any type of volunteer, no matter which generation they belong to. Let’s discover how best to make volunteer opportunities that resonate with alumni based on their generations.
Strategies to Engage Millennials and Generation Z
These fresh-faced and socially-responsible alumni are part of the most recent generation to graduate from your institution. This makes them more likely to be receptive to volunteering as a form of giving back while they build up their personal wealth. Consider having this generation volunteer by:
- Acting as social media ambassadors. As the most prominent generation on social media, nobody knows how to make an impact online better than Millennials and Gen Z. Provide your alumni with graphics featuring your institution’s branding to market anything from upcoming fundraising events to school announcements to a call to action to donate to your institution. Take it a step further by adding peer-to-peer elements like digital bingo cards that alumni can post on their stories to raise money for your school.
- Advising new student leaders. Recent graduates understand the issues your institution is facing and, more importantly, how to surmount these challenges. Ask younger alumni to act as peer mentors and advisors who can teach leadership strategies that they learned in their time at the school. Not only do they have recent experience with your school as a whole but they also have a unique perspective from their post-grad professional or educational pursuits.
- Hosting post-graduate informational panels. Similarly, young alumni have the potential to make a big change in current students’ lives by acting as post-graduate advisors. Ask alumni from various pursuits to provide advice to your student community on career planning, applying to graduate school, and general adult life after graduation. These alumni will likely be more relatable than older alumni because they’re closer to your current students’ age and can more vividly understand the transition into post-graduate life.
It wasn’t long ago that Millennial and Gen Z alumni were in the same position as many of your students. As the most tech-savvy and relatable alumni group, they’re ideal volunteers for internal mentorship programs, recruitment support, and online outreach.
Strategies to Engage Generation X
Born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, Generation X has both life experience and connections that make them valuable leaders for your alumni volunteer program. Leverage these strengths by having them:
- Serve on the alumni advisory board. Your alumni can provide helpful insights to achieve progress at your institution. Invite your most passionate Gen X alumni to serve on an advisory board that helps structure school-wide initiatives, like fundraisers and leadership development.
- Lead professional development panels. While Millennials and Gen Z are fresh in the workforce, Gen X has been building career experience and connections for at least fifteen years. Ask them to share helpful tips and answer current students’ questions as professional development panelists.
- Participate in family volunteering programs. Gen X alumni are more likely than younger alumni to have settled down and built families at this point in their lives. Build custom volunteering opportunities that are ideal for families to participate in together. For instance, for a fundraising idea like a carnival, you can assign kids an easy task like taking tickets while parents run the higher-stakes donation booth.
Involving Gen X alumni through these tactics allows them to contribute in ways that align with their expertise and current stage of life.
Strategies to Engage the Baby Boomer Generation
This group is the oldest we’ll be covering in this article. Born between the mid-1940s to the early 1960s, Baby Boomers likely graduated from your school between 40 and 60 years ago. Some ways you can get this generation involved in volunteering include:
- Mentoring current students. One of the best advantages of attending your school is the potential for one-on-one mentorship with alumni. While younger alumni are likely busier with school, work, and raising families, Baby Boomers are more likely to be retired and have more free time. This makes them the best candidates for an in-depth, one-on-one mentorship program with current students.
- Leading the alumni association. As the longest-standing members of your alumni community, your Baby Boomer alumni understand how it functions and how to improve it. Ask invested alumni from this generation to head up the alumni association. Their in-depth knowledge of how your school has changed over time uniquely positions them to make decisions about alumni-specific matters, like reunions.
- Acting as fundraising ambassadors. Baby Boomers are more likely to have free time and connections, making them great ambassadors for your philanthropic initiatives. With some training and support, they can majorly scale up your outreach.
Remember to meet Baby Boomers where they are with communication. For instance, if some alumni prefer to be reached via phone rather than email, take these preferences into account so you retain their volunteering support.
Time can be just as valuable as monetary donations, and it’s up to your school to make the process as engaging as possible for alumni. While every alumni community is different, these ideas are likely to resonate with various age groups, make your volunteer management process easier, and create a more fulfilling experience for everyone involved.
Drew Logsdon is the Director Of Communications at Pennington & Co., a full-service fundraising, consulting, and alumni engagement firm for fraternities and sororities. With over twelve years of experience working in fraternity and sorority life, Drew brings expertise in storytelling and marketing to the sector.