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The Truth About Getting Millennials to Volunteer

This is a guest post by Erin Palmer. Erin is a writer and editor for University Alliance which works with colleges such as Villanova University. Erin is also a Millennial - and offers her opinion on how you can engage her generation as volunteers.

What do Zeus and Millennials have in common? Both are the subject of many myths. Zeus is the center of Greek mythology, while Millennials are the subject of less flattering myths. There is the myth that we are all entitled. Another myth claims that the younger generation has no attention span. One of the most frustrating myths about Millennials is that we are indifferent. It’s been said that it is difficult to engage Millennials. How could an organization get a group of entitled, uncaring Millennials with no attention span to volunteer?

It is as simple as dispelling the myths. Drop the preconceived ideas about Millennials and simply connect with us. Millennials have so much to offer when we are given the opportunity. Studies show that Millennials already volunteer, so it’s just a matter of drawing us in. Here are some tips that nonprofits can use to help attract Millennials as volunteers. 

Approach from our level

Millennials have grown up with technology. Nonprofits can use this to their advantage by making use of the things that Millennials are already using. Reach out through social networks. In fact, take the time to reexamine the nonprofit’s social media channels from the eyes of a prospective volunteer. Does the organization’s message come across? Is there a strong call to action that will grab the attention of our age bracket?

Make sure to pay attention to the latest social media tools. Millennials aren’t just on Facebook and Twitter, so nonprofits should expand their social media strategy. Knowing and utilizing the latest trends in social media will help to attract a younger volunteer base. Make use of YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram as well. Millennials are visually inclined, so a powerful video or photo can increase the chance of getting our attention.

Give us the chance to make a difference

Any form of volunteering can make a difference, but the more we can contribute the better. We don’t want to simply work an event. We want to help plan it and help promote it. Millennials have grown up in an era where volunteering is often a requirement in high school or college, so we often have years of volunteering experience. However, we also have plenty of organizations to choose from. The nonprofits that make the best use of us are the ones we’ll want to come back to.

We know that there are going to be some less than exciting assignments when volunteering, but it is important to mix it up. If we spend every volunteer hour updating spreadsheets, our desire to return each week will likely decrease. Don’t be afraid to challenge us with more difficult tasks. Ask for our ideas. Balancing the day to day tasks with more important assignments will help attract and retain Millennial volunteers. 

Let us know how we’re doing

Another myth about the Millennial generation is how needy we are. Some of our elders feel like we need constant attention and pats on the head just for doing our job. This isn’t entirely true. Millennials don’t need a steady stream of accolades to stay motivated. What we need is feedback. Our entire education was based on a system of assessment, evaluation and response. Knowing what we are doing right and what can be improved upon only makes us better. 

Though we don’t expect a standing ovation just for showing up, recognition is still a good thing. Like any other volunteers, Millennials do appreciate it when we are being appreciated. When a nonprofit director takes the time to thank us for our hard work, it doesn’t go unnoticed. The best source of motivation is seeing the results. If we work an event that raises a lot of money, let us know about the results and explain how that money will help the cause. Seeing the fruits of our labor will drive us to come back and do it again.

Don’t believe the myths

When nonprofits want to gain more Millennial volunteers, the first step is to ignore the negative myths. An organization doesn’t have to understand every nuance of the Millennial mind in order to appeal to us. Know the best ways to reach out to us and utilize them. Help us make our stamp on your mission and give us feedback about our progress.

Millennials want to make a difference. Take us for who we are and give us the chance to support the cause. The truth is, Millennials are talented, excited and ready to help. All we need is the right nonprofit to give us the opportunity to do so. 

This guest post was by Erin Palmer. Erin is a writer and editor for University Alliance which works with colleges such as Villanova University. Erin writes about nonprofit and public sector topics relevant to Villanova’s Master of Public Administration Degree.

Image source:  Portrait of happy...volunteer group, courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 8:33 AM
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