How Volunteers Build Community Across Generations

Last year, Independent Sector was happy to have Founder and CEO Marc Freedman at our conference in Washington, DC to launch Generation to Generation, a social action campaign mobilizing older adults to devote their time, talent, and experience to improve the lives of young people.

In honor for National Volunteer Week, I recently talked to Sarah McKinney, communications director for the Generation to Generation campaign, about the program, their upcoming Encore Prize, and the importance of encouraging volunteerism within the charitable community.

KGC: You launched the Generation to Generation campaign last year during the Independent Sector Conference. Tell us why you think the time is ripe for a campaign like this?

SM: The growing inequality in America has hit young people particularly hard, with nearly half of kids living in low-income neighborhoods, and with limited access to resources that could help them thrive. At the same time, we have an enormous population swell of older adults, with 10,000 people turning 65 every day. These are people with wisdom and experience, and many have extra time on their hands and want to give back. Matching these two groups, to ensure every child has a web of support, just makes sense. If you haven’t already joined the campaign, please visit and sign up.

KGC: How has the campaign been going, and what are some things you’re particularly excited about?

SM: We’ve experienced incredible momentum over the past few months, and we’re excited to begin the “Gen2Gen Summer Challenge” this May, where we’ll be encouraging older adults to help kids avoid falling behind during the critical summer months when so many young people—particularly those living in low income neighborhoods—face challenges. With the help of fantastic partners including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, No Kid Hungry, the National Summer Learning Association, and KaBOOM!, we’ll spotlight opportunities for older adult volunteers to help in the areas of summer learning, job training, healthy meals, and play! If you’re interested in posting volunteer opportunities within these impact areas or helping us spread the word about Gen2Gen Summer, we’d love to hear from you!

We’re also really excited about The Encore Prize: Generation to Generation Challenge, which will award $100,000 in cash prizes, coaching, and a year of ongoing support to organizations or individuals that have innovative solutions to help children and youth through utilizing the life experience and talents of older adults. Applications are open through May 7 to people of all ages and backgrounds.

KGC: What’s the unique benefit of having young people interact and learn from older adults?

SM: The benefits really flow in both directions. For kids, connecting with an older adult outside their family who believes in them, and supports them through life’s challenges, can increase self-esteem and improve life in so many ways (e.g. grades, high-school completion, attending college, less alcohol and drug use, etc.). For older adults, connecting with a young person can provide a renewed sense of purpose, and the opportunity for continued learning and growth. Interacting with young people is also fun—and has been linked to better health!

KGC: In what other ways can organizations in the charitable community get involved in this effort? Are there things organizations can be doing now to encourage their own intergenerational relationships?

SM: Definitely. Look within your organization and ask how your work and workforce can be strengthened by intentionally bringing in the experience of older adults – to reduce divides of age, race, color, and class. And let your stakeholders know that you endorse the Gen2Gen vision, where the goal of later life isn’t trying to be young; it’s to be there for those who actually are.

Learn more about the campaign at

Kristina Gawrgy Campbell is the director of strategic communications and public relations at Independent Sector.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: IS Member, IS Staff, Leadership Development, Organizational Relationships