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Active ageingVoluntary work by older people in Europe$

Andrea Principi, Per H. Jensen, and Giovanni Lamura

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447307204

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447307204.001.0001

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Voluntary Organisations' Characteristics and Practices towards Older Volunteers

Voluntary Organisations' Characteristics and Practices towards Older Volunteers

Chapter:
(p.245) ELEVEN Voluntary Organisations' Characteristics and Practices towards Older Volunteers
Source:
Active ageing
Author(s):

Andrea Principi

Jolanta Perek-Białas

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447307204.003.0011

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter is the first one, out of three that focus on opportunities and restrictions for older volunteers from an organisational perspective, based on 73 case studies carried out among European voluntary organisations. The chapter provides the main methodological information about the case study research conducted across the eight countries included in the study. It informs about the main criteria adopted for selecting voluntary organisations, i.e. the activity sector and age-structure of the volunteer workforce. The main characteristics of the voluntary organisations investigated are also shown. After methodological matters, the organisational internal management of older volunteers is analysed in this chapter, in terms of policies, behaviours and attitudes. This has meant to explore organisational age management initiatives regarding volunteers, and also organisational opinions and existing barriers for older volunteers. The study also identifies what type of voluntary organisations could experience more barriers than opportunities for volunteering in older age.

Keywords:   case studies, voluntary organisations, older volunteers, organisational perspective, volunteer workforce, age management, barriers

Introduction

This chapter is the first of three that focus on the 73 case studies carried out among European voluntary organisations on opportunities and restrictions for older volunteers from an organisational perspective. From an active ageing perspective, the overall aim of the three chapters is to understand whether voluntary organisations are inclusive enough to accept older people as volunteers, if they appreciate older volunteers in terms of available skills and resources, and if they are willing and prepared to invest in them through pro-active strategies and measures. Furthermore, we look to determine whether negative stereotypes and prejudices towards older volunteers may be present among voluntary organisations. This is important to really understand, because voluntary organisations represent the ‘demand’ of voluntary work, yet very little is known about their policies, opinions and behaviours towards older volunteers. Thus, these three chapters constitute the main innovative aspect of this volume. They deal with the meso level, and relevant to the conceptual framework employed in this volume as described in Chapter Two are questions such as: do voluntary organisations employ or plan to employ special measures in order to recruit and retain older volunteers for as long as possible? What is actually being offered to older volunteers by these organisations? How do voluntary organisations perceive the consequences of an increasingly older workforce and of informal family care on the contribution of older people as volunteers?

The methods used in these three chapters are described in detail in Chapter One. It is useful here to remember that the activity sector and age structure of the volunteer workforce were the main criteria adopted for selecting voluntary organisations to be included in this (p.246) study. The final sample is described in Table 11.1 (in-text citations of organisations through the three chapters are based on what is reported in note a).

The three chapters are conceived as reporting results from case studies that deal respectively with the following: the internal management of older volunteers in terms of policies, behaviours or attitudes (this chapter); how the welfare mix conditions the way in which older people's labour market participation and care obligations have an impact on both the participation of older volunteers and organisational activities (Chapter Twelve); and voluntary organisations' orientations towards responding to future societal changes through volunteers' age management practices (Chapter Thirteen).

An interesting approach towards studying the internal management of older volunteers in terms of policies and behaviours (the aim of this present chapter) is to adopt a human resources (HR) ‘age management’ perspective. The ‘age management’ concept is well established relative to work on the labour market (Naegele and Walker, 2006), which has been defined as organisational ‘initiatives designed to combat age barriers, either directly or indirectly, and providing an environment in which each individual is able to achieve his or her potential without being disadvantaged by their age’ (Walker and Taylor, 1998, p 3). These initiatives are intended to increase opportunities for older people in employment. And yet, we want to understand if they are employed not just by companies but also by voluntary organisations in an attempt to manage their volunteer workforce. Thus, the main purpose of this study is to identify possible age management practices vis-à-vis volunteers in voluntary organisations. We consider age management practices as all those organisational formal and informal policies or behaviours that emerged from the interviews, thereby implying an intentional or unintentional management of volunteers on the basis of their (older) age. This topic was studied by means of information gathered from interviewed organisational representatives on policies and practices regarding older volunteers, or specific initiatives (for example, a project, programme or measure) designed for older people as volunteers.

Organisations may exhibit very different characteristics between them that could have a direct impact on the way they manage their work and their workforce (Mintzberg, 1983). For example, voluntary organisations may provide or carry out very different services or activities, be more or less professionalised, have different sizes, and volunteers of different ages and gender compositions. Thus, we argue that organisational policies, including those for the sake of managing (p.247)

Table 11.1: Description of the investigated voluntary organisations

No

Namea

Sector

Main services

Number of volunteers

Share of older volunteers (H/L)b

% of female volunteers (approx)

1

Nivon Hunebed and De Kleine Rug

Culture and recreation

Hosting guests in nature houses

1,500

H

60

2

Gilde Zeist

Culture and recreation

Transfer of knowledge, skills and experience through guided tours, lectures, counselling, mentoring, and so on

6,000

H

50

3

Kasteel de Haar

Culture and recreation

Guided tours in the castle; events for children and adults

65

H

50

4

Hospice Utrecht and Thuis Sterven

Health

Caregiving and support to the dying and their family and friends

81

H

90

5

Ronald McDonald House Utrecht

Health

Temporary accommodation for parents of ill children, patients of the children's hospital

75

L

91

6

2 Studies on nursing homesc

Health

Care for the nursing homes' patients

40,000

H

90

7

PKN Pro Deo Utrecht

Social services

The largest Protestant church in the Netherlands, provides all kinds of support to people in need

80

H

55

8

Portes

Social services

Community centres offering activities in about 25 facilities to improve life conditions and everyday surroundings for people of all ages

1,000

L

75

9

Clientenbelang

Social services

Advocating the interests of individuals in the areas of care and social services, as well as labour and income

10

L

70

ENGLAND

10

Volunteer Reading Help Northamptonshire (VRH)

Education and research

Helping schoolchildren improve their reading skills

120

H

84

11

Workers' Educational Association (WEA)

Education and research

Adult education provider

About 1,000

H

Not availabled

12

The Waterways Trust

Culture and recreation

Preservation and protection of the nation's waterways

220

H

34

13

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Culture and recreation

Manages and maintains Shakespeare's birthplace and four other heritage sites linked with Shakespeare and his family

300

H

60

14

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

Social services

Information, support, advocacy and advice to the two million Britons who are blind or partially sighted

3,100

H

44

15

The Scout Association

Social services

Activities for the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials

100,000

L

43

16

Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS)

Social services

Personal and practical support to older people to help them live independent lives and to stay active in the community; other services include retail and patient support in hospitals

47,000

H

82

17

Community Service Volunteers (CSV)

Development and housing

Offers volunteering opportunities mainly in the field of education, social services and environment, and provides training for disadvantaged people to gain employment

165,666

L

Not availabled

GERMANY

18

Kunstverein Bremen

Culture and recreation

Art association and a museum

65

H

74

19

SV Werder Bremen

Culture and recreation

Soccer sports club

320

L

33

20

Bucherhallen Medienprojekte Hamburg

Culture and recreation

Supply of books and reading services to disabled older people

124

H

75

21

Lohner Tafel

Social services

Supply of foodstuffs to people in need

100

H

84

22

Integrationslotsen Duisburg

Social services

Integration network to support non-natives

69

L

64

23

Caritas Dachverband

Social services

Provision of low-threshold services and support at the federal, state and local level

500,000

H

79

24

Seniorpartner in School

Education and research

Helping pupils solve conflicts with teachers, contributing to a better learning atmosphere at school

183

H

75

25

Zeitzeugenborse

Education and research

Providing historical witnesses and biographically based experiences to pupils and other interested groups

200

H

52

26

Ausbildungspaten Recklinghausen

Education and research

Mentoring programmes for young people during the transition from school to professional work

100

H

50

SWEDEN

27

The Swedish Church

Religion

Mentoring to young people, church services, sales in second-hand shops

About 18,000

H

75

28

Mission Covenant Church Lerum

Religion

Activities for young people in particular, but also social and cultural activities for older people

150

L

50

29

Salvation Army

Religion

Helping people with difficulties, for example, disadvantaged groups, disabled people, drug and alcohol addicts, and so on

800

H

70

30

Ria Lerum

Social services

Advice and information on alcohol-related issues to people who are exposed to high risk of social exclusion

45

H

70

31

Stockholm City Mission

Social services

Social work mainly focused on disadvantaged groups (homeless people, drug and alcohol addicts, disabled people, and so on)

About 360

H

75

32

Children's Rights in the Society West Region

Social services

Support to children and young people in distress; a link between children, adults and the community

90

L

90

33

Amnesty International Gothenburg

International

Actions to prevent and stop abuse of human rights and demand justice for those whose rights have been violated

220

L

70

34

Save the Children Gothenburg

International

Activities for children's rights

100

L

70

35

Red Cross Sweden

International

Support to people in distress

About 40,000

H

75

DENMARK

36

Vejgaard Historic Association

Culture and recreation

Collection of documents from the local area issuing publications, and management of excursions

9

H

0

37

Aalborg Senior Sport

Culture and recreation

Sports activities for seniors

190

H

Not availabled

38

Dgi North Jutland

Culture and recreation

Gymnastic and sports association

142

L

40

39

Tenants Association Aalborg

Development and housing

Attending to tenants' interests in relation to landlords, public authorities and policy makers

14

L

71

40

Gistrup Cable Service Provider

Development and housing

Cable services

8

H

25

41

9220 Aalborg East

Development and housing

Activities with a main focus on jobs and education, social integration, communities and health

365

L

60

42

DaneAge Aalborg

Social services

Support to the rights and interests of senior citizens

162

H

61

43

Cross Church Army Aalborg

Social services

Provides social services to the frailest and most marginalised people, such as people with mental ill health, homeless people, addicts, and so on. Its activities include drop-in centres, shelters, house shares, community work and therapy for addicts and burdened families

6,000

H

90

44

DanChurchAid Aalborg

Social services

Helping poor people abroad; the work conducted in Denmark mainly includes fundraising, advocacy and information

Primary network: about 500; coordinators of national fundraising campaigns: 900; fundraising: 23,000; secondhand shops: 3,500

H

Secondhand shops: 90%; Remaining volunteers: 50%

45

Red Cross Army

International

Sales in second-hand shops, companionship and –norklere— (knitting and crocheting various things, such as dolls)

20,000.

H

80

ITALY

46

Associazione per l'Autogestione dei servizi e la solidarieta (AUSER)

Social services

Services for older people: personal services, telephone company and light home care (social care) services. Civic services to the community: socialisation and cultural expressive activities

37,738

H

45

47

Unione Nazionale Italiana Volontari pro Ciechi (UNIVOC)

Social services

Services for blind people. Companionship and support in different daily and leisure-cultural activities to foster social inclusion of the blind

2,000

H

57

48

Tenda di Abramo

Social services

Reception centre for people with severe economic and social hardships; accompaniment and support to guests looking for accommodation or work

249

L

54

49

Associazione per il volontariato nelle unita locali dei servizi socio sanitari (AVULSS)

Health

Services provided mainly in hospitals (companionship and light social health services), but also in nursing homes, prisons, facilities for disabled people and private homes

10,353

H

83

50

Associazione Nazionale Pubbliche Assistenze (ANPAS)

Health

First health aid (transport) in emergency health situations, and social transport for people with health problems

90,000

L

36

51

Associazione Volontari Italiani Sangue (AVIS)

Health

Blood provision (for example, to hospitals) through voluntary, free-of-charge, periodical and anonymous blood donation

1,156,286

L

30

52

Associazione Nazionale delle Universita della Terza Eta (UNITRE)

Culture and recreation

Third age university that also provides cultural voluntary activities carried out by students (for example, in museums); conferences and meetings; publications

4,000

H

70

53

Teatro Aperto

Culture and recreation

Promotion and dissemination of cultural initiatives (theatrical performances in particular)

62

H

40

54

Unione Italiana Sport per Tutti (UISP)

Culture and recreation

Sports and sport-related leisure and cultural activities

50,070

L

30

POLAND

55

Polski Komitet Pomocy Spolecznej (PKPS)

Social services

Professional help, substantive and organisational support, restoring hope and sense of security to people in difficult situations, for example, poor, old, disabled, homeless, lonely and abandoned people

About 400

H

85

56

Fundacja Samaritanus

Social services

Organisation of senior activation centres whose activities are addressed to the local community (information services, counselling, active help and advocacy, and so on)

16

H

85

57

Mali Bracia Ubogich (MBU)

Social services

Services to prevent and combat the marginalisation of older people

About 300

H

80

58

Lekarzy Nadziei Cracow

Social services

Social and medical assistance to people in need in clinics for the homeless and the poor, charity points, and so on

14

H

50

59

Integracyjne Razem

Culture and recreation

Self-support groups providing free services for old, disabled, poor, socially excluded people, and children in the local community

15

H

85

60

Espar 50+

Culture and recreation

Promotion of physical activity of older people: gerontological prevention to improve the quality of life of seniors

10

L

90

61

Ja Kobieta

Education and research

Mobilisation of people 50+ to improve the quality of life of older people, in order to counteract discrimination based on age, gender stereotypes, and so on

25

H

90

62

Senior na Czasie

Education and research

Preventing marginalisation and activation of middle-aged and older people, by implementing measures promoting active and healthy lifestyles

5

L

80

63

Akademia Pelni Zycia

Education and research

Educational activities, such as computer and language courses, and so on

20

H

65

FRANCE

64

Lire et Faire Lire (LFL)

Culture and recreation

Reading workshops for children delivered by seniors in school or extracurricular settings

11,901

H

90

65

Federation Francaise de la Retraite Sportive

Culture and recreation

Organisation and self-leading of various sports activities for retired people

2,000

H

Not availabled

66

Chemins de fer du Creusot

Culture and recreation

Managing the tourist railway in a park and promoting the park using attractions, leisure activities and entertainment

51

H

20

67

Federation Francaise de la Randonnee Pedestre

Culture and recreation

Practising and promoting hikes

20,000

H

75

68

Federation Nationale des Associations de Retraites (FNAR)

Law, advocacy and politics

Lobbying and expertise to advocate rights, material and moral interests of seniors and their legal successors

400

H

10

69

Association Force Ouvriere Consommateurs

Law, advocacy and politics

Inform, advise and represent consumers in a spirit of independence and solidarity

400

H

50

70

Association Generale des Intervenants Retraites-Abcd

Social services

Activities of solidarity, for example, accompaniment towards employment, companionship, literacy, support to economic, cultural and human development

3,124

H

38

71

Petits Freres des Pauvres

Social services

Accompaniment to sick, at the end of life and isolated people

8,500

H

70

72

Association Emmaus

Social services

Accommodation and social accompaniment

350

H

50

73

Solidarites Nouvelles face au Chomage

Social services

Jobseekers' accompaniment, development jobs creation, voicing of opinions in public debate

1,200

H

48

Notes:

(a) In this column, the words underlined have been used to cite the organisations through Chapters Eleven to Thirteen;

(b) H = rather high or above average; L = rather low or below average. Average is meant as the total share of older volunteers (50+ years) among all volunteers in the country;

(c) Case study based on the following studies: Scholten, C. and van Overbeek, R. (2009) Een solide basis: onderzoek naar vrijwilligerswerk en verantwoorde zorg, Vilans: Januari, and Elferink, J. and Scholten, C. (2009) Met pensioen als vrijwilliger: onderzoek naar de inzet van oudere vrijwilligers, Vilans: MOVISIE, November;

(d) Even after a request for an estimate of the organisational representatives.

(p.248) (p.249) (p.250) (p.251) (p.252) (p.253) (p.254) (p.255) (p.256) (p.257) (p.258) (p.259) older volunteers, may be conditioned and influenced by these characteristics. And so, a second aim of this chapter is to determine whether certain organisational characteristics are associated with certain age management practices among volunteers.

Nevertheless, age management policies may be affected not only by such organisational characteristics, but also by the attitudes towards older volunteers among organisational decision-makers. For instance, it was found that age discrimination in employment could depend on stereotypes about age and other age barriers (Sargeant, 2006). Thus, we consider it important to examine opinions held by organisational representatives on older volunteers, and whether (or not) some form of age barriers may be present among voluntary organisations.

The chapter is structured as follows: the next section presents the main organisational characteristics to be looked at in the analysis, and how they are related to the sample of voluntary organisations being investigated. In the third section, organisational ‘age management practices’ are described and related, to the extent that it was possible, to the characteristics of voluntary organisations. Then, the fourth section provides an overview of opinions among organisational representatives on older volunteers, as well as reflections on the main organisational barriers to volunteering in older age. The chapter ends with some concluding remarks.

Characteristics of Organisations under Study

This section illustrates the main characteristics to be considered in the analysis of the voluntary organisations under scrutiny. In particular, we take into account the activity sector, the number of volunteers employed by the organisation and the age and gender balance of the volunteer workforce (see Table 11.2). We expect that according to different characteristics, voluntary organisations may have different ways of coping with an aged volunteer workforce, that is, this may play a role in shaping organisational practices for older volunteers.

In the sample of organisations investigated, in both philanthropic and non-philanthropic organisations, the share of older volunteers was mainly high (in 69 and 76 per cent of the organisations, respectively), whereas with respect to the volunteers' gender, contrary to non-philanthropic ones, most philanthropic organisations had a higher share of female volunteers. The share of female volunteers was about 50 per cent in organisations mainly composed of older volunteers and in young-profiled organisations (data not shown).

(p.260)

Table 11.2: Characteristics of the voluntary organisations under study (n)

Sectora

Number of volunteersb

% of older volunteersc

% of female volunteersd

n=73

n=73

n=73

n=69e

Philanthropic

Nonphilanthropic

L

M

H

L

H

L

M

H

The Netherlands

6

3

5

0

4

3

6

0

4

5

England

3

5

0

3

5

2

6

3

1

2

Germany

3

6

4

4

1

2

7

1

3

5

Sweden

9

0

3

3

3

4

5

0

1

8

Denmark

4

6

3

4

3

3

7

3

2

4

Italy

6

3

1

1

7

4

5

4

3

2

Poland

4

5

7

2

0

2

7

0

2

7

France

4

6

1

3

6

0

10

3

3

3

Total

39

34

24

20

29

20

53

14

19

36

Notes:

(a) We made a distinction in this sample between organisations that provide mainly philanthropic or altruistic services to needy people (sectors: social services, health, religion and international) and organisations providing mainly non-philanthropic and more self-expressive services and activities (sectors: culture and recreation, education and research, development and housing, law, advocacy and politics);

(b) Low (L) = 0-100, Medium (M) = 101-500, High (H) = 501 or more;

(c) L = rather low or below average, H = rather high or above average. Average is meant to be the total share of older volunteers (50+ years) among all volunteers in the country;

(d) Low = up to 44%, Medium = 45-65%, High = 66% or more;

(e) Unavailable in four voluntary organisations.

Important organisational features also include the size (for this we based our estimation on the number of volunteers in the organisation, number of users and the magnitude of the organisational yearly turnover; information on this is reported in more detail in Principi and Lamura, 2011) and the number of paid staff in the organisation (Principi and Lamura, 2011). The degree or presence of the latter aspects, together with the kind of services provided (see Table 11.1), may also give a proper picture of the degree of professionalisation in the organisation, which is another key characteristic to consider in the analysis of organisational policies.

In the following section we explore whether organisational practices of the volunteers' age management can be found in the voluntary organisations being investigated, and whether (some) organisational characteristics may play a role in shaping the said volunteers' age management initiatives.

(p.261) Volunteers' ‘age management’?

Age management of the workforce is a familiar concept to for-profit organisations (that is, companies). Studies on this topic underlined that initiatives could be found in a number of possible dimensions and phases of the working life, as, for example, recruitment, health and well-being, flexible working practices, training, transition to retirement, and so on (see, for instance, Naegele and Walker, 2006). Through our study, our aim was to understand if and how this concept of ‘age management’ applied to the volunteer workforce in the organisations being investigated.

Officially, the majority of the investigated organisations did not seem to pursue any explicit strategies of age management in relation to their volunteers. More precisely, it was found overall that in the organisations under study the entire traditional concept of human resources management (HRM) concerning the volunteer workforce was not well established. HRM offices were found in large voluntary organisations, but they did not usually have any connection with volunteers, dealing only with paid staff. This applies less to large Italian organisations under study, since in that country paid staff were hardly found among voluntary organisations.

Given the growing professionalisation of the volunteer sector (Warburton and Cordingley, 2004), it may be expected that HRM could increasingly focus on managing volunteers rather than dealing only with paid workers. The remaining part of this section provides evidence of volunteers' age management practices in the following dimensions: recruitment, intergenerational exchange, training, flexibility, redeployment, exit policies and comprehensive approach. These concepts emerged in the organisations being analysed from interviews with their organisational representatives. As a matter of fact, in the investigated organisations, it was possible to recognise some organisational ‘age management’ practices, and to classify them according to the key dimensions of age management as identified through the case study methodology for employees working for the labour market (Walker and Taylor, 1998; Naegele and Walker, 2006).

Recruitment

Some informal actions (rather than real planned strategies) that indirectly refer to age management were found among the investigated organisations. In particular, several of them reported the wish to obtain a more suitable age mix of volunteers. This meant that, on the one (p.262) hand, older-age profiled organisations sometimes felt a lack of younger volunteers, whereas, on the other hand, younger-age profiled ones felt at times the need to involve a larger number of older volunteers. The study highlighted the presence of both mechanisms.

Several studied organisations composed mainly of older volunteers complained about a lack of younger volunteers and would often invest to increase the participation of the latter. As to the specific reasons for this, organisational representatives reported the following:

  • a wish to rejuvenate the organisation and increase voluntary staff in order to remove a certain fragility within the organisation (Hospice);

  • for renovation purposes, and to better address the needs of some users (2 Studies);

  • to resolve concerns about the future supply of volunteers, given the relatively high mean age of current ones (WEA, WRVS);

  • need for knowledge, skills and a better understanding of younger people on some issues, for example, legal regulations and new technologies (MBU, Lekarzy Nadziei, Razem, Akademia);

  • to balance and complement existing older volunteers in terms of skills, energy and time (Waterways);

  • because older people are no longer fit enough to perform all tasks (Kunstverein, Lohner);

  • because younger volunteers have the potential to stay in the organisation for a longer period of time, thereby allowing some of the older volunteers to retire (Gistrup);

  • to promote and increase intergenerational engagement (WRVS);

  • because the best dynamic is found in groups with mixed ages (Salvation Army).

Interestingly, most of the organisations that expressed this wish for a more suitable age balance were characterised by a high share of female volunteers, suggesting that older volunteer men tend to prefer a more intragenerational exchange.

Despite the clear intention to move in this direction, little evidence was found in terms of concrete organisational strategies to achieve age balance, although the following was found in some medium and large organisations:

  • a project with 16-to 24-year-olds achieved a more balanced mix in terms of age, experience and skills, and gave young people the (p.263) opportunity to develop in personal terms and in technical areas (Waterways);

  • investment of specific funds to attract younger volunteers (WEA and Nivon);

  • organisation of youth conferences every three years, aiming to attract young people into the organisation (AVULSS);

  • programmes with clearly defined goals and a limited time frame to appeal to young people (Caritas).

In most cases, attracting younger volunteers to this kind of organisation was not an easy task, and often the actions failed, according to respondents from certain philanthropic organisations. As some Swedish representatives put it, if there were too many older volunteers, it might be difficult to attract younger ones (Save the Children), and this remains a critical issue (Salvation Army).

This difficulty is clearly evident at AVULSS, an Italian organisation actively trying to attract more younger volunteers, but with meagre results. Some responsibilities for the failure were attributed to the older volunteers themselves, who may have shown resistance and too little desire to communicate their experiences. A key responsibility for this failure is the kind of activity the organisation carries out, which is judged as ‘not appealing’ by younger volunteers. Organisations also ascribed this failure to the lack of time that younger and very busy people have (AUSER, AVULSS, and some German organisations).

The fact that organisations, where older volunteers were mainly present, tried to involve more younger people does not necessarily mean that the recruitment and contribution of older volunteers were not considered to be equally important. Indeed, some of them give outright preference to applicants aged 55 and over to carry out their activities, probably due to their greater experience (Seniorpartner), which could be exploited in the organisation according to the desired professional competences (DanAge), such that recruitment programmes addressing older citizens are now being developed (Salvation Army) as well as special training for project managers and best practice for recruitment (WRVS).

There were also some examples of initiatives through which certain organisations, made up mainly of young volunteers, were striving to involve older ones, as in the following:

  • establishment of a ‘group on the accessibility to volunteering’ to attract underrepresented categories of volunteers, including older ones (ANPAS); (p.264)

  • ‘60 plus’ initiative: the association sent letters to all members over 59 years of age to learn about their interests and their potential for civic commitment. In light of the replies, the organisation set up new sports groups, organised cultural tours, and so on (Werder);

  • concrete efforts towards even representation concerning age (Children's Rights, some organisations in England).

Intergenerational Exchange

The desire to have a more balanced age structure for the volunteer workforce in terms of their recruitment may of course be linked to the desire to pursue intergenerational exchange among volunteers. To add information to the rather scarce knowledge in the current literature on this topic concerning the reciprocal benefits that may be derived from the possibility of volunteers of different generations working together, our study found that the situation in the studied organisations could be considered favourable, since in most of them younger and older volunteers generally tended to carry out the same tasks and activities. Evidence in support of intergenerational understanding, empathy and collaboration is certainly present in some large English organisations such as the CSV, whose representatives stated that promoting intergenerational engagement was fine because ‘it is a value in itself ‘, or WRVS, whose Heritage Plus project was designed to bring together different generations of volunteers through documenting their own and their community's history. In the same direction is UNITRE's project focusing on younger volunteers teaching ICT skills to older volunteers as a way of intergenerational exchange, and the German Caritas’ participation in the intergenerational Volunteer Services programme, aimed at attracting voluntary activity from both pensioners and young people in transition from the education system to employment. In a small Italian organisation that mobilises a considerable number of volunteers rather than paid staff, it was observed that when activities are shared between volunteers belonging to different age groups, the older ones in particular show greater satisfaction (UNIVOC).

Large organisations that may heavily rely on paid staff can think of solving work problems through an intergenerational exchange. Thus, intergenerational cooperation may be possible whenever older volunteers have or acquire age-associated difficulties (for example, with hearing or some tasks that are physically demanding), since these inconveniences may be reduced by a younger fellow volunteer worker (Ronald).

(p.265) The intergenerational exchange seems to be critical, especially for tasks such as being ‘members of the board’, a leading position characterised by the traditional predominance of older men (for example, Scout, and some Italian organisations), but in which some organisations are striving to involve more young people (and more women). Some Polish organisations, for example, underlined that as an older person leaves the organisation, there must be someone who will take over and continue its mission and initiatives. Thus, mixed-age boards were often preferred, yet not so easy to implement in practice. The same occurred in some Italian organisations. In two of them with mainly male volunteers, older volunteers are concentrated in leading positions, and in these organisations it is not so clear whether it is younger volunteers who are reluctant to be involved in managerial functions or older managers who refuse to step aside (AVIS, UISP).

Training

In the studied organisations, training is usually addressed to volunteers of all ages without a specific age dimension. Nevertheless, this activity is also described as very important in organisations where older volunteers constitute the majority (for example, Razem, AVULSS, Retraite Sportive, LFL, Solidarités).

In this kind of organisation, participation in training is voluntary, but in some cases it becomes a ‘must’, especially when a specific task cannot be taken up before training has been completed (Seniorpartner). AVULSS' representatives reported that older volunteers particularly lack ICT competence and need to be trained in it. Regarding how far training can be achieved, it was usually provided in the form of training-by-doing under supervision (Caritas), by means of brochures and written work instructions (Zeitzeugenbörse), as well as courses, conferences and meetings. In this way, older volunteers were able to broaden their horizons, and feel that their competences improved through volunteering (Senior Sport). Providing training was judged to be helpful in counteracting the possible withdrawal of volunteers.

Retention Strategies: Flexibility and Redeployment

Most of the studied organisations wanted to retain their older volunteers for as long as possible. To achieve this, some of them, made up mainly of older volunteers, had introduced more flexible possibilities towards performing certain tasks in order to take into account the possible changing circumstances of older volunteers, (p.266) such as, for example, temporarily interrupting membership when needed and facilitating readmission afterwards (Caritas, Bücherhallen). Furthermore, since older volunteers generally have more time to volunteer, they could be considered to better fit certain flexible characteristics that organisations are requesting more and more, such as, for example, being available on demand around-the-clock (2 Studies). Flexible working practices are considered important for solving potential conflicts among people in relation to volunteer activity. Thus, for the studied organisations it was crucial to find an adequate intensity level of engagement. According to a young-profiled Swedish organisation, composed mainly of women volunteers caught between work, raising children and volunteering, this flexibility was crucial (Save the Children).

Relative to older volunteers, the most often mentioned reasons identified by organisations for giving up voluntary work were changes in ‘family circumstances’ (for example, to care for a spouse or a parent, duties as grandparents, and so on) or in the ‘volunteers’ interests’. In these cases, to avoid the withdrawal of older volunteers, an appropriate retention strategy could be to offer a new task to older volunteers. This seemed to be important in some organisations composed mainly of older volunteers, as for the following two French organisations. Frères created a body (‘Fioretti’, that is, ‘little flowers’) to deal with older volunteers becoming dependent on others or having worsening health conditions. The organisation tried to find and create new activities to maintain their commitment, and in a few years the number of older volunteers in the organisation had doubled. Another similar example is provided by Retraite Sportive, which set up an Old Age Commission with the task of studying and formulating proposals for reducing the negative effects of ageing (which were likely to discourage certain members), with the aim of retaining all retired people within the activities of the organisation. Even some young-profiled organisations pursue the retention of older volunteers when capacities and needs change with redeployment in another manageable task. For example, to help adult volunteers and thus retain them longer, Scout had established ‘adult support services’ with the tasks of advising and guiding volunteers with formal appointments in areas such as recruitment, induction, training and review of adult volunteers. In the case of small organisations with few older volunteers, their involvement in the decision-making processes through regular meetings and good communication quality was also considered a good retention strategy (Integrationslotsen).

(p.267) ‘Exit policies’

With regard to ‘exit policies’, there is generally no strict law or regulation that prescribes the age beyond which doing voluntary work is no longer allowed. Still, in some cases, such a rule could be found at the organisational level. In 2004, for example, Scout abolished its mandatory retirement age of 65 for volunteers with formal appointments as part of its commitment to diversity and equal opportunities. Hardly any of the studied organisations wanted its volunteers to retire because of ageing, but the professionalisation process had sometimes introduced certain reviews in large organisations with a modest number of older volunteers that could also be intended as ‘exit policies’. At the English Scout, for example, there is a procedure for reviewing volunteers which would formally allow those who were in an advanced age to reconsider their commitment and/or change to less active roles. The words are chosen carefully so as not to offend, but the implication is clear. Similarly, at the Dutch Ronald, from the age of 70, every year during the annual performance interview, the manager discusses with the volunteer the appropriateness of keeping on with volunteering.

‘Succession planning’ has instead been introduced at the French Retraite Sportive, comprised mainly of older volunteers, where for each position, and particularly those of responsibility, a deputy is appointed in order to reduce the problems associated with absence. With this initiative, inconveniences linked to a lack of replacement of older managers due to possible sudden death, health problems or relocation are avoided. In any case, individual ‘retirement decisions’ in most of the investigated organisations are mainly and strongly linked with worsening health or physical conditions and changed capabilities, thus making the tasks too demanding, rather than ageing per se.

Comprehensive Approach

A comprehensive approach to age management means dealing with the quality of HR management from recruitment to exit. Good practice in comprehensive approaches is characterised by, for example, an emphasis on preventing age management problems and a focus on the entire working life and all age groups, not just older workers (Naegele and Walker, 2006). This implies considerations on the good quality of ‘the volunteer cycle’ without focusing solely on older volunteers. This aspect was found important, for example, at the large English WRVS, which has a policy for a ‘people engagement cycle’, starting at the (p.268) pre-recruitment phase and continuing with volunteers' retainment as supporters after their withdrawal from active volunteering.

Less structured examples in this direction were found in other organisations which could be summarised in two main organisational actions: (a) to select the best suited candidate according to the organisational needs and thereby preventing possible future problems; and (b) to take care of the selected volunteer in a better way during the volunteering experience.

The main channel to identify candidates used by the studied organisations was word-of-mouth, but in certain cases they could be identified among members, as in a French sports association where the most dynamic and healthy members could be selected to become volunteers (Retraite Sportive).

Some large organisations underlined that selecting the best-suited volunteers is more important than accepting all-comers, and one reason behind it could be that a work organisation needs expert volunteers for specific tasks. Interviewed representatives of the English Waterways underlined the importance of the selection procedure, because ‘if you get the wrong person, they are with you for 10 years and the business will go downhill’. Thus, it seems that as a more professional framework evolves, organisations increasingly have to think about the necessary tasks to be done and allocate volunteers regardless of their preferences. A selection process took place in a number of investigated organisations (particularly in the more professionalised ones) in different countries. This process may consist of an initial interview (Nivon, Hospice, Frères), and this interview is also useful for finding a match between the organisation's needs and the person's interests and capacities (Werder). In some cases, organisations were required to provide selected candidates with compulsory training sessions before officially allowing them into the organisation (Seniorpartner, AVULSS, City Mission). The French Frères invests several months and resources to channel new volunteers' talents through a proper course before volunteering. Introduction programmes for settling into the work and being familiarised with the organisations were normal in the Dutch organisations Cliëntenbelang and PKN.

In order to contribute towards creating a good atmosphere, at Dgi and Senior Sport, a ‘greeting group’ is in charge of making sure that new members feel welcome. Other ways to support a good quality volunteer cycle are training, accompaniment and regular meetings to organise activities. They are fundamental not only for new volunteers, as neglecting this aspect might be fatal for an organisation in the long term, since problems of loose bonding between volunteers (p.269) and the organisation may arise (Integrationslotsen, Zeitzeugenbörse,Ausbildungspaten).

We conclude this section by considering that even if the age management concept is not widespread in voluntary organisations, it has to be said that some of these organisations have started to adopt age management considerations to manage their volunteer workforce, both to improve their performance and to increase opportunities for older volunteers. While this section has addressed opportunities for older volunteers, the following explores the main barriers to volunteering.

Age Discrimination in Voluntary Organisations?

Age management has to do with removing age barriers, and this may be linked to negative opinions and stereotypes of older volunteers, among other barriers. The aim of this section is to investigate the main organisational opinions of older volunteers and the barriers for volunteering in older age.

Organisational Opinions of Older Volunteers

All the above-presented organisational ‘age management’ practices may be affected by opinions and stereotypes of older volunteers, especially as perceived by organisational decision-makers (Henkens, 2005; Principi et al, 2012). Indeed, organisational representatives mentioned both positive and negative concerns that might at least indirectly affect policies and practices towards older volunteers. When we inquired specifically over this, representatives of organisations with a high share of older volunteers in particular demonstrated appreciation for their older volunteers, considering them useful and reliable, for without them, they would simply no longer be able to operate (AUSER, AVULSS, UNITRE, Red Cross Army, WEA). In general, older volunteers were valued as those with more time and a greater commitment. At Nivon, for example, many were active after retirement for more than 20 or even 30 years, so in a way they grew older in the organisation. They were also appreciated for their great sense of availability, life experience, skills and knowledge, respect and authority. Other recognised strengths by the investigated organisational representatives included the fact that they can easily work autonomously, taking responsibility for their own projects (Gilde), as well as being pro-active (WRVS). According to representatives of some younger-profiled organisations, older volunteers have more sense of (p.270) duty and less monetary claims (Werder). They do not usually make cost-benefit analyses of their time investments, as the younger people do, and have the attitude of giving something to the organisation instead of only trying to get something out of it (Integrationslotsen).

Besides the majority of positive opinions, however, some negative perceptions were also reported, mainly in relation to stereotypes that could potentially lead to discriminatory practices. Indeed, some of the interviewed people confirmed that older volunteers are less willing to change things, have too little will to exchange their experience due to a lack of trust in the younger generation, and so are less capable of learning new things and in general suffer from worse health and psychological conditions. Last but not least, according to representatives of two organisations, older volunteers are not always cooperative.

Main Barriers to Volunteering in Older Age

We have argued that opportunities might be conditioned by barriers such as organisational age-related negative perceptions, that may in turn be an indicator of possible age discrimination. From this, it can generally be said that when concrete actions to provide opportunities to older volunteers are missing, and negative opinions of older volunteers are overwhelming, this may well represent a barrier to greater involvement by older volunteers. More specifically, in the studied organisations, few practices were observed that could also be quite clearly labelled as discriminatory against older volunteers. For example, in a large young-profiled German organisation, older volunteers were not admitted to a corporate social responsibility programme. The director evaded questions on that programme, so the exact reason can only be proffered as a possible lack of identification models for the rather young public. In 2004 the English Scout abolished the mandatory retirement age of 65 for volunteers, even though in another English organisation members and volunteers over the age of 85 are currently not covered by the organisation's insurance policy. Thus, there seems to be a need to combat age barriers towards volunteering through an appropriate awareness campaign to improve the ‘image’ of older people, not only at the organisational level, but at all levels. For example, their image may be usually quite ‘negative’ in the media (MBU), or even self-perceived as such at the individual level. Interestingly enough, when older people (especially those aged 70 or more) introduced themselves during their first contact, a question they commonly asked to a large English organisation supporting children in (p.271) schools with literacy was: ‘Am I too old?’ (VRH). A considerable role in this game may be played by the current ‘professionalisation’ trend of the voluntary sector. Although professionalisation may mean more attention to induction and training opportunities, it also contributes to excluding lower educated, unqualified and less healthy people, that is, mainly older volunteers (Principi et al, 2012). For example, for some DanChurchAid activities the lack of English skills could become an exclusion mechanism; and at Integrationslotsen, older volunteers become less suitable when they have a worse command of foreign languages than younger people. Similarly, at Seniorpartner and Ausbildungspaten, both with a high share of older volunteers, people with a higher educational level were preferred as they could serve as mentors for younger people as well as being generally regarded as more loyal. Professionalising volunteering often means carrying out appraisals of volunteers, a praxis that, as already anticipated, may be negative for older volunteers. For example, some of the investigated organisations had competence charts, because this helped them decide which volunteer could be deployed for which task (2 Studies). So, to a certain extent, volunteers are increasingly being treated in a similar manner to paid staff. As a matter of fact, one further key aspect of professionalisation is the role of paid staff employed by voluntary organisations. It is thus important to understand the relationships between paid staff and the volunteer workforce, and in particular the older volunteer workforce, over whether barriers still stand in the way of older volunteers due to a not-so-ideal relationship with paid staff.

Large organisations that rely to a greater extent on employees and on only a few volunteers who are mainly older (that is, where paid workers have the power to recruit volunteers), may try to solve these problems by limiting the presence of volunteers in the organisation (as in the case of Kasteel). Another argument to support this view is that it is difficult to prescribe or forbid volunteers from doing anything, as they are not paid staff (Lohner).

In some voluntary organisations, including older-profiled ones, volunteers felt that the staff merely considered them (that is, the volunteers) as people who should serve them (that is, the staff), and not the other way around (Tenants, DaneAge, 2 Studies, AVULSS). Furthermore, according to some interviewed people, sometimes employees perceive volunteers as essentially having the more pleasant jobs (2 Studies), or feel that their job security is impaired by the presence of volunteers (Caritas). On the same issue, in some Swedish organisations with a high share of older volunteers, trade unions have raised some questions over whether an increase in volunteer work (p.272) might result in a reduction in the number of paid employees (City Mission and Swedish Church).

Conclusions

Based on the ‘age management’ concept established in relation to the work of the labour market, and defined as ‘organisational initiatives designed to combat age barriers, either directly or indirectly, and providing an environment in which each individual is able to achieve his or her potential without being disadvantaged by their age’ (Walker and Taylor, 1998, p 3), the main aim of this chapter was to determine whether volunteers' age management practices could be found among the investigated European voluntary organisations. As a matter of fact, we have identified, as described earlier, some organisational age management practices in the following areas: recruitment, intergenerational exchange, training, flexibility, redeployment, exit policies and comprehensive approach. So we can say with some certainty that even if most of the voluntary organisations did not officially pursue any age management strategy, organisational initiatives based on volunteers' age were not unknown. This means that some voluntary organisations are currently striving to adjust work tasks to meet the needs and preferences of older volunteers by means of special measures in order to recruit and retain them for as long as possible.

Yet age management practices have been implemented by organisations with different features, and we argued in the introduction to this chapter that organisational features might influence these practices. Indeed, some characteristics were found to play a prominent role in shaping such practices. It was found, for example, that the identified practices have not always had all the positive features implied in Walker and Taylor's definition (1998). Age management with ‘positive features’ seems to be found more clearly in organisations composed mainly of older volunteers that implemented some initiatives in line with the active ageing concept, intended as ‘a comprehensive strategy to maximise participation and well-being as people age’ (Walker, 2002, p 130). In concrete terms, this means, for example: flexibility to facilitate readmission after a period of care for a spouse or a parent or after grandparenting; redeployment to maintain commitment and reduce the negative effects of ageing; and succession planning with the aim of retaining older volunteers to prevent problems associated with their possible absence. Another distinctive trait is a wish to involve and have relationships with volunteers from the younger generation. Yet despite some efforts in this direction, (p.273) intergenerational relationships between volunteers seem difficult to realise, particularly in philanthropic organisations, probably because they imply activities that may not appeal to younger volunteers.

Despite age management initiatives in line with the active ageing concept were mainly found in organisations composed mainly of older volunteers, some of these initiatives were also found in organisations composed mainly of younger volunteers. For example, some of the latter aimed to recruit more older volunteers to have a more balanced age structure for the volunteer workforce, since a better age-mix of such a workforce was considered valuable.

The situation seems to show some difficulties for older volunteers in organisations with a considerable degree of professionalisation (that is, mainly large ones with a high level of paid staff, and sometimes organisations with mainly younger volunteers). Even if good practices are not missing from this kind of organisations (see, for example, the ‘people engagement cycle’ at WRVS, an organisation composed mainly of older volunteers), volunteers' age management practices seem to be first oriented towards maintaining a suitable quality of work and solving work problems. This is not a negative aspect in itself, since a more professionalised volunteer sector would necessarily mean a more professionalised volunteer workforce. This is also clearly indicated in the increasing importance given by these organisations to a very selective recruitment process in order to identify the best suited candidates. However, this may sometimes imply certain uncomfortable or penalising practices for older volunteers, as, for example: difficulties in being recruited; allocation to a non-attractive task; or being ‘dismissed’ as a result of a periodical review.

A further issue discussed in this chapter was age discrimination in voluntary organisations, particularly with respect to opinions held by organisational representatives on older volunteers, as well as other possible organisational age barriers. In general, we found that especially (although not exclusively) organisations composed mainly of older volunteers held positive opinions of the latter, and even considered them reliable, available, experienced and skilled. These kinds of organisation also exhibited fewer age barriers, while the more professionalised ones tended, to a higher extent, to exclude older volunteers from certain activities or manifested some kind of age barrier.

On the whole, the study indicates that even if some age management practices could be found among European voluntary organisations, the majority of the investigated organisations were still unfamiliar with the concept of ‘age management’. At the organisational level (p.274) there is still a need to remove direct and indirect negative perceptions of older people as volunteers. This should be considered in a context of growing professionalisation of the voluntary sector which may tend to exclude older people, that is, generally people with less individual resources. It would seem that the more there are paid and professionalised staff among these organisations, the more they tend to solve work problems at the expense of older volunteers, leading to the latter's further alienation, for as pointed out by one respondent, they might have difficulties in seeing themselves within the context of a ‘professional’ organisational environment (DanChurchAid).

References

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