Great Opportunities for Nonprofits to Engage Young Volunteers

By May 8, 2015 May 11th, 2015 All Posts, Commentary

 

Rhonda McClungRhonda McClung
Vice President

A generation of avid volunteers is growing up – giving nonprofits the opportunity to engage volunteers at a younger age and keep them participating longer. Two surveys released in 2014 confirmed that young adults today are more likely than their parent’s generation to participate in community service.

The Volunteering and Civic Life in America Report, conducted by the Corporation for the National and Community Service, found that 21.7 percent of Millennials volunteered in 2013, a figure that has grown from 13 percent in 1989.* 

In an Associated Press-GfK Poll released in December 2014, young Americans under age 30 were more likely to label volunteering as a “very important” civic duty than the generation before them.** 

The Volunteering and Civic Life in America Report also revealed that in 2014, 29 percent supported volunteer work, a 10 percent increase over the same age group from a similar survey in 1984. At the same time, individuals over the age of 50 are less likely to label volunteering as “very important” compared to the generation before them. 

Individuals under the age of 30 have grown up with organized efforts to promote volunteerism. Unlike their parents and grandparents who found volunteer opportunities through local school projects and church activities, young adults have seen community service programs integrated into the curriculum of their high schools and universities. They have grown up participating in national days of service created around the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. 

“We’re on the crux of something big, because these Millennials are going to take this spirit of giving and wanting to change communities and they’re going to become parents soon,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The surveys support the findings of the The 2013 Millennial Impact Report, released by Achieve and the Case Foundation.*** The report is an ongoing study of the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and their involvement with causes. The top take away from this report is that young adults first support causes, not institutions, about which they are passionate. It’s up to organizations to inspire them and show them that their support can make a tangible difference on the broader issue. Once a cause that sparks their passion is identified, young adults choose to volunteer as a means to network with peers and share their expertise and skills.

Volunteering taps into the independent nature of Millennials who support causes with their time, in part because they aren’t at a time in their lives when they have disposable income to give and, in part because they desire to play an active role in changing their communities. 

Reaching young volunteers requires nonprofits to reach out to potential volunteers in meaningful ways: 

  • Utilize social media to share the call to action to your volunteers. Today, young volunteers learn about community projects through social media, not through the flyers and phone calls used to communicate with their parents’ generation. Nonprofits must be active on social media spreading the word about volunteer opportunities. Ask current volunteers to spread the word by sharing your message to their followers and friends.
  • Provide opportunities for young adults to spend time with their like-minded peers and showcase their skills and expertise. Networking and professional development opportunities are top draws for getting young adults invested in a long-term relationship with an organization.
  • Access organized community service programs at local high schools, colleges and universities. Leveraging volunteer opportunities that are easily accessible to young people is critical to the success of community service programs. Develop relationships with the director of local community services programs in schools to increase an awareness about your organization and motivate students to get involved in your cause.

The opportunities are great for nonprofits to strengthen their volunteer networks, with young volunteers who 1) have a proven desire to make a difference, 2) who want to maintain a high level of service to their communities and 3) who aspire to showcase their skills and expertise. Nonprofits simply need to know how to effectively reach these young adults and commit to maintaining relationships with them.

To learn how your organization can more effectively identify and utilize volunteers, contact Rhonda McClung, Vice President, at 816.237.1999 or at rmcclung@jba.flywheelsites.com. 

For more information about the polls and studies referenced in the article above: 

*(http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/

**(http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/americans-civic-duty-poll-113853.html

***(http://casefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MillennialImpactReport-2013.pdf)

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