Charities will flourish or wither at hands of ‘super boomers’— New paper from the Commission on Voluntary Sector & Ageing.

The independent Commission on Voluntary Sector & Ageing, established by the think tanks NPC and ILC-UK, today warns charities to improve the way they work with volunteers, or risk losing the time and goodwill of the ‘super boomer’ generation.

The new paper, A better offer, warns:

  • UK charities urgently need to step-up preparations for the future, warns independent commission. ‘Without adapting, charities may find a large part of their voluntary workforce deserting them'
  • ‘Super boomers’ could be next generation of charity volunteers, but face unprecedented pressure to work longer and care for their families, with childcare a major burden reducing the time available to help charities
  • With volunteering by older people currently valued at £10bn a year, charities face an uncertain future unless they make a more compelling offer to potential volunteers
  • New survey data shows that larger charities seem to be weathering the storm—for now

Drawing on a series of discussions with volunteers and charities, as well as a survey of 12 of the largest charities in the UK, A better offer argues that volunteering can harness the talents of the most skilled and professionally experienced generation ever. It can also help solve social problems including integration and loneliness in older people.

However, charities will need to adapt or face losing out on these potential gains. A better offer raises concerns that charities are under-prepared to attract volunteers who will be more demanding than previous generations, and will already be committed to later retirement and the burdens of covering childcare for their grandchildren.

Charities also need to prepare for a period when demographic change will mean that there may be a shortage of younger volunteers, an issue of particular importance to charities who work with children.

The Commission also surveyed 12 of the UK’s largest charities, who collectively control hundreds of millions of pounds a year and work with tens of thousands of volunteers. Most reported that their volunteer numbers were up compared to three years ago—bucking a trend which has seen volunteering falling across the sector as a whole, and raising serious concerns about the burden placed on smaller charities. The surveyed charities also voiced their worries about the care duties and grandparenting roles that would eat into the time of potential volunteers in the future.

Dan Corry, Chief Executive of NPC and a member of the Commission, said:

‘Older people have traditionally volunteered for charities in their droves. Without the massed ranks of retirees who stuff envelopes and take minutes in meetings, thousands of charities would struggle to survive. But society in changing, and charities need to change with it. If we get this right the future looks rosy. But get it wrong, and act too late, and there’s a real risk that charities will find their volunteer army heading for the hills. Charities can start by considering the small things—getting older and younger volunteers to work together to share skills, making sure volunteers are better recognised for all their time and effort. Older volunteers are among the most generous volunteers, giving thousands of hours to causes they care for, often in menial tasks and with relatively little in return. But charities are naïve if they think that the next generation will put up with the same thing’.

David Sinclair, Director of ILC-UK, said:

‘The “baby” and “super” boomers may provide a new wave of volunteers who could greatly benefit the charity sector by bringing a plethora of skills and knowledge. This is a valuable opportunity and it is up to us to design roles that make use of these skills and build an environment which is attractive to volunteer in’


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