No room at the inn (for seniors)

Having spent a morning with a group of “seniors” (their word not mine) talking about ways they can help charities other than giving money on an ad-hoc basis, I got to thinking about how organisations tap into what could be a very valuable source of support.

The group I met was made up of people who have supported various causes for a number of years, but who now felt they could do a lot more than they were doing financially. After a quick round the room chat about causes these people support, or would like to support, it became very clear that although in their later years these people still have a lot of “giving” in them.

We talked about things they are passionate about, skills they may have that could be offered to organisations:

Retired accountants  – these people could offer some advice to a charity’s board on accounting issues.

Retired lawyers  – what organisation doesn’t need legal advice.

Sales people  – maybe these could offer advice in communicating with donors.

Tailors / Seamstresses – restyling of donated clothes.

Although these people have skills that you would think would be welcomed by any charity, the issue was – how do we let charities know we are here and willing to help.

A couple of the people in the room talked about how they’d contacted organisations they had been long standing supporters of offering further assistance, but they had got the impression they weren’t needed. They spoke of how willing they were to roll up their sleeve and help – but all the organisations kept mentioning was their age and how important their financial contributions are. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know their money is needed, but to suggest to people that their other skills weren’t needed – to me is hogwash.

I’m sure there are valuable ways people like this group can help, and I’m determined to find a way to get them involved.

Don’t write people off because of their age, age is only a number, the skills these and many others have are useful – we need to find ways to help people help us.

Does your organisation offer people of an older generation the opportunity to volunteer, to act as advisors based on their experience?

Youth Volunteers

With many people already involved in volunteering in New Zealand, an estimated third of the population volunteer each year, are we in the same situation as Britain with a large proportion of the remainder of the population not knowing where, how to start volunteering?

At a guess I’d think we’re in a different situation, we talk about needs in the community often, we see and hear stories about youth doing great things in the community almost everyday which could open the minds of other youth to look at how they might get into some form of volunteer work.

Schools get behind community events and needs, and it’s assumed that this is talked about in the classroom, and is likely to inspire students to look at continuing helping in the community after they leave school, perhaps while still at school if they’re able.

What is your experience, understanding of volunteering and youth involvement, do we need to encourage more youth involvement, do youth know where and how they can volunteer?

If we have a low rate of youth volunteers what can we do to encourage more to give time to organisations in the community?


Encourage Supporters to Give Time

In philanthropy, we talk a lot about giving money, but giving time can sometimes be more satisfying & more valuable, such as volunteering. (As soon as I saw this on Twitter, I had to grab and use it – thanks Michael Chatman). 



Not everyone has money to spare, nor should we expect it of all supporters – there’s more ways people can help any organisation, perhaps supporters can be asked to give an hour of their time a week; others may have product or services they can give. 

Simone McCallum puts it well in her post “Lets Keep Our World Turning” – and she’s so right, organisations need people to help out, people to roll up their sleeves and chip in. 

There’s already many volunteer hours given each year, but with some wise thinking and planning the size of the volunteer sector will continue to grow. People see giving of their time as sometimes easier than giving money – and this shouldn’t be discouraged. 

Next time you’re planning a campaign don’t be solely fixated on cash donations; although it is acknowledged that this is needed – so too are skills and time that volunteers can give to your organisation. 

If you’re wanting to help in the community take time to look at how your skills and time can be put to good use; there’s organisations in every community that needs people to help them out. 

If you’re not sure where to start check local volunteer networks, likewise if you’re a community group needing help ask – in New Zealand there’s Volunteering New Zealand who can offer help, advice to community groups for all things volunteering. 

It’s time to start thinking how we can all take part as volunteers, how we can make a difference offering our skills. 

Next time you’re asked to support a community group and can’t give cash, will you instead offer time? 

Next time your organisation is planning its appeal, will you also take the opportunity to build your volunteer base?