Volunteering with different age groups can leave a lasting impact on everyone.
According to Diane Strachan, director of planned giving at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Alice Schwallie, manager of volunteer programs at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, both in Cleveland, many organizations have generational volunteer opportunities.
“We welcome families at any opportunities, but some are just suited better for families,” Schwallie said. “Our docent opportunities are especially good for that, as we have a junior docent program and an adult docent program. We plan to merge those to further implement that generational value. It’s a whole family endeavor.”
Strachan said the Cleveland Museum of Art has opportunities for generational volunteering, like within its women’s council.
“We have many moms and daughters who volunteer together and we also have three sisters-in-law who also volunteer together,” she said. “For our summer community celebration, Parade the Circle, we have a number of families who come together every year to participate in creating floats and puppets and who participate in the parade itself. We very much encourage others to bring their friends and family along to participate and have fun.”
Strachan said generational volunteering makes for a more comfortable volunteering environment as well.
“We want people to invite others and empower them to be ambassadors for the Cleveland Museum of Art,” she said. “We allow them to make the introductions, so everyone feels comfortable. And then that new family member feels comfortable too because they have that built-in mentorship program.”
Schwallie said the volunteer program shopuld be diverse.
“When you have different ages, you have people bringing in different backgrounds and experiences into the opportunities they are working on,” she said. “You get people with different experiences working on one thing and they can bring ideas and solutions to the table that might not have been thought of without the different generations.”
Strachan said it’s important for the museum, and other organizations like it, to have an impact on many generations.
“We’re here for the benefit of all people, forever,” she said. “We consider ourselves a community hub for activity, creativity and learning. We’re here for our second century, and it’s important for the Cleveland Museum of Art to expand our reach beyond the current generation. Although our art spans several thousand years, we’re going to be here for hundreds more. It’s important for the next generation to have an investment as well.”
Schwallie said each generation benefits from the volunteering experience, especially when they work together.
“Volunteering is vital at any age,” Schwallie said. “For the younger generation, it’s a chance to try out different interest areas that could apply to a potential career. For older generations, it’s a chance to get back to something they were interested in or a career they formerly had. There is the obvious social component to volunteering, but they also get to help an organization they love.”
When attempting to get multiple generations involved in a project, Strachan said, “it has to be presented in a way that is meaningful for both generations. So, the opportunity that is presented needs to be about spending time together, about working towards the same goal and about having fun. Ultimately, it’s about the impact the result will have on the community. I think the invitation needs to be presented in a way that is compelling.”