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Volunteer Teams in Wisconsin Taking Service to New Level

Last week, the Wisconsin Aging Network Conference featured two workshops that highlighted the need for older adult volunteers and discussed ways to take volunteer engagement to a new level. 

The sessions were led by Christine Beatty, Director, Madison Senior Center, and Carrie Porter, Transportation and Volunteer Specialist, Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources. They brought energy and first-hand experience to make the case that volunteerism as a win-win for agencies and volunteers.

“We are seeing more and more retirees looking for ways to use their skills and contribute,” said Carrie. “It's important for us to consider new strategies for volunteer involvement in order to take full advantage of what this generation has to offer.”

Both conference sessions focused on self-directed volunteer teams, a practice that is the central approach to n4a's popular PowerUP! engagement model. This approach recognizes that volunteers from the boomer generation gravitate towards opportunities that provide flexibility, defined outcomes and responsibilities that commensurate with their experience. For agencies, it provides a cost-effective way to administer a program that promotes shared leadership and accountability.

During the first session, the presenters showed attendees how the PowerUp! model can help to recruit and retain volunteers.  “It's important to acknowledge that PowerUp! is really a culture shift in how our organizations think about volunteering,” said Christine.  “Completing an organizational self-assessment and making sure agency leadership and staff are ready will get you off to a good start.”

Christine also advised attendees to engage in targeted recruitment for volunteers with specific skills. She explained that through conversations with potential volunteers she was able to identify individuals she could tap for assistance. 
The second session explored how self-directed teams are effective because they benefit from a diversity of perspectives and expertise. 

For more information about the Aging Network Volunteer Resource Center or the PowerUp! model contact Peter Lane, Director, Leadership and Volunteer Development at plane@n4a.org.

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