By Dave Carpenter, AP Personal Finance Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Stuffing envelopes is out and meaningful work experience is in for a new generation of volunteers.
Spurred by the tight job market or often career-change aspirations, older workers with specific goals for donating their time are remaking the face of volunteerism. Call it giving back with an agenda.
Executives at nonprofit organizations around the country testify to the new worker demands, many of them from baby boomers used to pushing for what they want. The execs are hardly complaining — volunteerism is on the rise and it's the older population that's behind it.
A million and a half more volunteers helped out at a school or hospital or otherwise served their communities at least once during the one-year period ended last September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total of 63.4 million included a 4.2% jump among those age 45 and over, compared with just 0.7% among younger volunteers.
Some of the influx is from unemployed job-seekers looking to keep their resumes current. Many are what Reilly calls "bridgers" — workers from for-profit companies who are volunteering their free time because they would like to move into the nonprofit sector as they phase into retirement. Still others are full-time retirees among the 9 million volunteers age 65 and over.
But nonprofits say it's boomers, now ranging from age 45 to 64, who are driving the trend of looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities as they near retirement. That's a big change from earlier generations, whose volunteers, many of them women without jobs, typically haven't arrived with specific demands.
"The traditionalists just want to volunteer — you can put them wherever you need them," says Sherry Iversen, manager of volunteer services at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "Baby boomers know what they want to do and will only volunteer in that capacity."
Instead of mailing letters or doing basic office or administrative work, boomer volunteers at nonprofits are serving on boards, identifying new clients, helping with marketing and fundraising and even taking on management roles.
"We're not talking about June Cleaver from the '50s," says Kathy Hayes, volunteer coordinator at the Courage Center in Minneapolis, a rehabilitation center for the disabled. "This is a whole new batch of volunteers. They have tremendous skills and they want to use them."