7 Mistakes Organizers Make When Engaging Millennial Volunteers

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Do you struggle to attract younger volunteers, particularly millennials? And when you do, is it hard to keep them engaged? The fact of the matter is, it’s going to take more than free food or an awesome t-shirt to get them on board (although those things might help too).

Even though 74% of millennials said they would “volunteer for a cause supported by a company I trust,” only 28.2% actively volunteer

So what’s the problem? Why the disconnect? Perhaps the answer lies in one of these 7 common mistakes that organizers make when engaging millennial volunteers.

Mistake #1: Not providing the right kind of volunteer opportunities

We live in a fast-paced world, and millennials are especially concerned about maintaining work/life balance. Nonprofits will need to provide a variety of opportunities for engagement, including virtual and micro-volunteering activities. Millennials are also more inclined to look for projects that align with their strengths and interests, so skills-based volunteerism will continue to grow.

Mistake #2: Not fostering collaboration among volunteers

Millennials embrace experiences, value authenticity and desire flexibility. They want to directly contribute ideas and engage their minds as well as their hands in service. While they respect leadership and work well in a team environment, they thrive when allowed to play a more active role in the decision making process. Organizers would do well to create an environment where volunteers are able to collaborate and work together in small groups. 

Mistake #3: Focusing on institutions rather than causes

Millennials care more about solving local problems than national issues, and are concerned most with causes that impact their own communities. They hold little regard for institutions, but can be generous with their time and money when connected with something they believe in. Civil rights, healthcare, education and employment are the issues that millennials care most about. They volunteer for causes that affect them directly and feel compelled to support those who cannot speak up for themselves. Capture their hearts by showing them how they can solve a problem in the community where they live by volunteering.

Volunteers helping unload food from truck

Mistake #4: Offering only traditional volunteer projects

Social responsibility is viewed from a holistic perspective by most millennials. They share posts about social issues they believe in, sign petitions, donate to charitable causes and intentionally buy products from businesses that they consider socially responsible. They engage in marches and demonstrations, vote for public officials who support their beliefs and volunteer with organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. All social actions hold equal value… signing a petition carries as much weight as volunteering in person with a nonprofit. Nonprofits can engage more millennials by esteeming non-traditional volunteer activities as highly as in-person projects.

Mistake #5: Recruiting individuals instead of volunteer groups

Millennials reported that they are 65% more likely to volunteer if a co-worker is participating. They are greatly influenced by their peers in everything from what they share on social media to where they give their money. Millennials frequently invite their friends to participate in volunteering or fundraising efforts with them, and are more likely to donate to a cause or participate in an event if one or more friends is also participating. Organizers would be wise to create opportunities where groups can volunteer together, and invite existing volunteers to bring their friends to join them.

Mistake #6: Going it alone

Collaboration is one of the core values of the millennial generation. They are tired of partisanship and expect diversity. Millennials will lead the way in cooperating across the social sectors and in creating networks and communities for the greater good. Organizations who build partnerships with other institutions will be more likely to attract millennial volunteers. 

Mistake #7: Failing to integrate technology into volunteer programs

Having grown up in an electronic and online environment, millennials are digital natives. Open to learning new skills, they are highly adept at using technology. In fact, they seamlessly integrate it into their daily lives, with 87% of millennials using two to three tech devices daily. 90% of them report being active on social media.

Nonprofits who fail to integrate technology into their volunteer programs will fall behind. Millennials want convenience and simplicity in everything they do. After all, this is a generation that even automates grocery shopping! So if your organization wants to engage more millennials, then you need to meet them where they are – on their screens!

Three girls around laptop

Volunteer management systems like VOMO can make engaging millennials much easier. These digital tools puts volunteer opportunities right in the palm of their hands, so that they can be signed up and ready to serve with your organization in three easy clicks. They can also keep track of their volunteer hours and show the impact value of the time they serve. And best of all, it enables you as the organizer to easily manage volunteers, measure analytics and push critical notifications and messages out prior to your serving opportunity.

According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans go online. And that number is only going to grow as millennials become the largest demographic in the workplace and the leaders in society. Using technology to recruit volunteers will soon be the norm for nonprofits. The sooner organizations can adapt to this reality, the better positioned they will be for the next generation of volunteers.

For additional resources on engaging volunteers, check out these upcoming webinars.

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