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Monday, November 16, 2009

The impact of age on charity volunteering

I recently read an article by Rob Berry about a research project he undertook for one of the world’s most respected charities, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

From his research he discovered that the age of the doctors had a significant impact on their rationale for wanting to become involved with the charity. I asked Rob to write a few words for inclusion in my blog explaining what he discovered. Here is what he said.

Research amongst medical practitioners, academics and policy advisers was used to understand the motivations and barriers to volunteering. Whilst there were some important common motivations in terms of altruism and humanitarianism, there were also fundamental differences depending on age. Older doctors were particularly motivated by the wish to use their skills in a less well resourced area as a way of putting something back. They were also ready for a break from routine. Nevertheless, they had concerns that needed to be overcome in MSF’s communications: the length of assignments, safety, living conditions, issues around leaving family and friends and arranging absence cover.

Younger doctors were often motivated by a sense of adventure but needed reassurance about the danger or benefits of this sort of career break. Financial considerations were more important to this group than to their older colleagues.

MSF were able to develop a communications programme for recruitment that used the common denominators whilst addressing the needs of different groups. Understanding the importance of age delivered greater efficiency in attracting the right volunteers when and where they were needed.

I wonder how many charities have a one size fits all approach when trying to attract volunteers?

In this case age is an important factor. In other cases lifestyle will be the main determinant. The only way you are going to find out is by research. That is where Rob’s research agency (Manor Marketing) comes in. Dick Stroud

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