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Making a Difference!

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Making a Difference!

That’s the Baby Boomer motto.
Donna  Gates M.Ed., ABAAHP
Donna Gates M.Ed., ABAAHP More by this author
Dec 01, 2011 at 09:00 AM

In the past, a tribe was a clan of people who descended from a common ancestor. A tribe today can be defined as a group of people or a “subfamily” that holds common interests or a collective passion. Together they share knowledge and find and implement solutions.

In Seth Godin’s book Tribes, he talks about how the individual has more power than ever before to create change. When people have a shared interest and a shared way of communicating that interest, “miracles” happen.

The legacy of the Baby Boomers—to challenge the status quo and act from a place of vision—is now bringing an entirely new business and social change culture to the world. As Godin says, heretics have become the new leaders. These new leaders don’t “manage.” They connect and inspire. They are not concerned with earnings reports. They are concerned with leveraging skills and resources in ways that make palpable change in suffering lives.1 Baby Boomers are a powerful tribe.

With our enormous resources . . . our wisdom, our talents, and our wealth . . . we are more ready than ever to have an intentional and positive impact in the world.

And we are generous.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering in America is at a 30-year high. In fact, the number of Americans volunteering in their communities jumped by 1.6 million in 2009, the largest increase in six years.2 And Baby Boomers have made more charitable contributions than any other age-group. Their interest in and commitment to volunteerism are the primary reasons for a 37 percent increase in volunteering among midlife Americans since 1989 (from 23.2 percent in 1974 and 22 percent in 1989 to 30 percent in 2005).3

What makes the way we give unique? Well, first, we are noticeably more engrossed in making use of our existing expertise and interests, and we want our volunteer activities to reflect our beliefs and what we care about. We have high expectations, want diversity of choice, and tend to bypass opportunities that we don’t find interesting or challenging.

“Making a difference” is the top reason why we volunteer, and because we see retirement as a new chapter to our lives rather than an ending, we are more upbeat about the future and always on the lookout for ways to stay involved and learn new skills.4

Sweeping and transformative change is not something that only Boomers do. In fact, our children may be even more successful at it than we are.

More and more universities are changing the focus and curriculum of their business programs. Why? Because their students are demanding it! Schools like the University of Maryland have made social entrepreneurship a priority, giving students the opportunity to align entrepreneurial vision and problem solving with philanthropy and social change. (See:

Baby Boomers won’t follow the sedentary ways of our aging parents, nor will we allow ourselves to become as isolated. In the 1960s, some of us became hippies and tried to live in communes or ashrams, but we weren’t mature enough to make these succeed. Still, we have retained that deep need to connect with others and build community. And today we are creating new communes and tribes where we can be bonded with passionate members like ourselves—even if they live across a vast ocean—by using technology such as online social networks.

Mother Teresa often said that isolated people are the poorest people on the planet. Don’t let loneliness and separation enclose your life as the years fly by. Get involved. Become a member of a tribe that shares your passions.


  1. Seth Godin, Tribes (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008): 11.
  2. Corporation for National & Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, Volunteering in America: 2007 Trends and Rankings in Civic Life (Washington, D.C., 2007): 1.
  3. Corporation for National & Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, Volunteer Growth in America: A Review of Trends Since 1974 (Washington, D.C., 2010): 2.
  4. “Great Expectations: Boomers and the Future of Volunteering,” A VolunteerMatch User Study, MetLife Foundation, 2007.
About Author
Donna  Gates M.Ed., ABAAHP
Donna Gates, M.Ed., ABAAHP, is the international best-selling author of The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity, The Body Ecology Guide to Growing Younger: Anti-Aging Wisdom for Every Generation, and Stevia: Cook Continue reading