Volunteer recruitment can be challenging, especially when it’s within a diverse community as language, cultural nuances, and even gender, greatly impact these efforts. The Hispanic community is no different. While Latinos are volunteer-oriented, many Hispanic older adults don’t relate to, and perhaps don’t understand, the concept of volunteerism. Rather, they “help”, “assist”, and “support.” They also don’t relate to the concept of “signing up” to volunteer because giving time to help one another is more than second nature — it’s part of their DNA.
Therefore, targeted strategies are needed to effectively recruit ad retain Latino volunteers, especially Hispanic older adults. That is NHCOA, with the support of the Administration on Aging (AoA), developed the National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP). The NHSMP is an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, which empowers seniors through increased awareness and understanding of healthcare programs. Because Medicare fraud fraud is so prevalent in the Hispanic community, one of the functions of the NHSMP is to help state SMPs across the country connect with, recruit, retain, and support Latino volunteers. While the needs and challenges may vary from state to state, there are five main concepts that any organization seeking to recruit Hispanic volunteers should take into account:
1. Understanding the cultural context of volunteerism for Latinos
A Hispanic volunteer doesn’t consider him or herself a volunteer. Growing up, Latinos are taught that it is polite and correct to help others, including neighbors and community members who are in need. For example, carpooling to the supermarket because the neighbor’s car broke down, giving a donation to a family who doesn’t have enough money to pay for their loved one’s funeral expenses, or a Hispanic senior who offer to take care of her neighbor’s children when they have a scheduling conflict. Essentially, volunteerism is about stepping up and taking action to ensure that the harmony and balance of the community is preserved.
2. Family ties (familismo) are the foundation of Hispanic volunteerism
The reason why Latinos tend to be aware of, and focus on meeting the needs of their communities is because they consider them as extended families. This also includes places of worship and employment. For example, Hispanic worship groups and ministries or company-sponsored soccer teams. This tendency stems from the fact that many Latinos grow up with extended family (although they don’t refer to these relative as such), particularly grandparents, aunts, and even family friends.
3. Latinos connect to causes through people, not issues
Because of the family-centered values that are central to the Hispanic community, the best way to engage Latinos in volunteer efforts is to explain how their efforts will help community members rather than how it will impact the issue. For example:
With your help, we can protect ourselves and our grandparents from Medicare fraud.
Sign up to join the fight against Medicare fraud in your community.
Giving weight and importance to how the issue affects people will help you connect directly with potential Hispanic volunteers, as well as make them feel that you understand them and empathize with them.
4. Influence, trust, and respect are the building blocks of volunteer outreach among Hispanics
In order for a volunteer recruitment strategy to be effective among Latino seniors, it will take time and effort. It requires relationship-building skills and patience so good rapport and eventually, trust, can be established. Partnering with, or being vouched for by a well-known, respected, and influential community figure will help speed the process up. Because of factors including language barriers and social isolation, engaging with Hispanic older adults can be difficult at first. However, once a relationship is established in which they feel useful, helpful, and appreciated, they will your cause’s biggest fan and supporter.
5. Appreciation goes a long way
Hispanic older adults, just like all older Americans, offer a wealth of wisdom, experience, and knowledge, which they are eager to share and pass along. Allowing Latino senior volunteers to be actively engaged will not only strengthen their ties to your cause, but their feedback will help improve your reach and influence within the Hispanic community. One way to encourage engagement is by showing Hispanic older adults appreciation for their volunteerism. Small gestures, such as certificates, pizza party, or even a hug and warm ‘thank you’, can mean the world to them. Beyond feeling appreciated, they will treat you and your cause as their extended family— and that brand of loyalty is priceless.
For more tips on recruiting and retaining Latino volunteers, click here.
The National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, is the only Medicare fraud prevention program that uses culturally and linguistically appropriate tools and resources to close the gap in Medicare fraud education among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. The NHSMP program was launched in Rio Grande Valley, Texas in 2005 and expanded into southern Florida in mid-2011. NHSMP also provides technical assistance to organizations working with older adult populations, so they can more effectively expand their reach to Hispanic seniors, while meeting the demands of our increasingly diverse older adult population.