Part II of Thoughts on Millennial Volunteers: Recruiting and Keeping Millennial Volunteers

Canva Millennials Blog PostIn Part I of this series, I shared some helpful “insider” info on millennials–namely, the millennial trend of individuality and how it’s led many of us to a state of thinking where we think know we can change the world. Now I’ll share some more practical advice on how to recruit and keep millennials as volunteers for your organization!

  • Connect Us to the “Big Picture”

In an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Kathleen Janus wrote that organizations should consider connecting donations to specific projects because millennials “want to know how organizations are using their contributions.” Millennials are more likely to donate to an organization if they understand the potential impact of their donation. I would argue that this logic is also applicable to recruiting and keeping millennial volunteers: when an organization calls on volunteers to help, they should consider highlighting the connection between the expected duties of those volunteers and the larger picture toward which they’ll contribute. Just as you can connect donations to a specific project with tangible outcomes, you can also connect volunteer responsibilities to the organization’s larger impact.

So, for example, does your Bird Conservation Advocacy Alliance* want volunteers to help at the annual Birds of a Feather Flock Together* fundraiser dinner to set up tables and chairs? Great! When advertising this volunteer opportunity, be explicit about how these volunteers’ actions will contribute to the organization’s larger goal of conserving natural wetland habitats for birds. This may seem like the kind of obvious connection that should go unsaid, but if you make it explicit, it will probably make it that much more attractive to millennials. As Tess Pajaron writes in “5 Ways to Attract Young People to Your Nonprofit” on Engaging Volunteers, “Millennials are mostly motivated by passion for a cause, so when spreading the word about your charity, concentrate on your mission, not the institution itself. With that in mind, motivate young people to get involved by showing them that they are able to make a difference.” I agree with Tess completely: nonprofits should try to connect millennial volunteers directly to their passions via “big picture” missions.

I (a millennial) have volunteered at several nonprofits simply because I truly believed that what I was doing (sorting donated clothes at a charity thrift store; setting up those ubiquitous tables and chairs for an event; etc.) helped contribute to the organization’s “big picture” mission. I was passionate about that mission, and then I was shown that my actions would help make a difference.

  • Utilize Social Media (Yeah…You Should Have Seen This Coming)

Look, if you’re not using social media in your attempt to attract millennial volunteers to your organization, then I’m not sure how you’re trying to reach us. By fliers? By your website? What if we don’t know you have a website? Now, it’s true that millennials are notorious for googling everything, so if a millennial is REALLY interested in your organization, of course they’ll end up at your website and perhaps stumble upon your volunteer opportunities. But it’s more advantageous for your organization to go to them instead of expecting them to come to you. The beauty of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is that it’s very fast and very efficient. If you post something interesting and a few millennials see it, they’ll even do a lot of the work for you by passing it on to their friends. And to go back to websites for a moment, please understand that millennials ALWAYS take note when a website features a terribly outdated design. So, people, invest in a good website with clean, attractive, and noticeably current designs. It will only help you.

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Now, back to social media: make sure to utilize the best social media platforms for your organization. Is time a limiting factor? Then perhaps you should just consider Twitter, which basically utilizes the briefest posts possible. Do you know that the millennials in your area are more active on Facebook? Then consider that avenue.

Additionally, consider posting content besides the usual events and notices. As Tess Pajaron also writes, “Share inspiring, fascinating and engaging content – once people share it to their own networks, your cause will reach more individuals than ever, some of which might get engaged enough to become volunteers.” You might attract millennials to your social media platform just by sharing content that interests them and sparks their passion for your organization’s cause. Better yet, if you have the staff and resources, start a blog to share relevant and eye-catching content! Attract millennials to your organization through social media and keep them coming back for more.

So, to return to the fictitious Bird Conservation Advocacy Alliance once again, don’t just share upcoming events on your social media platforms or blog; share news about wetland conservation or destruction, reintroductions of birds into their native habitat, etc. You get the picture.

  • Make Volunteering Mutually Rewarding

As Tess also writes, “Young people turn to charitable organizations to gain precious work and life experience.” This is important when it comes to understanding millennials’ relationship to volunteering. As I hinted above, many of us will volunteer when we feel strongly about an organization’s “big picture” mission. However, many millennials also feel that their time is precious, so if you can make a volunteer experience mutually beneficial for both your organization and the volunteers, that’s even better. Explore the option of working with a local university (or even high school) so that by volunteering with your organization, students from a certain class/discipline can earn class credit. Or see if you can set up internships for millennials where they volunteer their time in exchange for an opportunity to see how a nonprofit runs and gain real-world experience.

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You might also consider outlining the benefits of volunteering (whatever you feel those may be) to millennials through your social media platforms, your website, or perhaps through physical marketing materials (brochures, fliers, etc.). Be creative! This point coincides with the first point about connecting millennial volunteers to the “big picture”: we like to know the details about how our efforts are contributing to a cause, and how we’re also personally benefiting from that experience. Will some millennials volunteer simply because they understand that it’s a worthwhile experience? Sure. But others will see it more as a means to an end–a way to further their professional development, for example.

In conclusion, attract millennials to your organization through social media, connect them to your organization’s “big picture” mission, and then provide them with a mutually beneficial volunteer experience. If you do these things (and others–there’s a whole world of information about millennials on the internet), you’ll have a better chance of recruiting and keeping millennial volunteers. And that, my friends, would be great indeed.

*This is fictitious, of course, but you get the picture.

*Also fictitious, though I happen to think it’s a fabulous name for a fundraiser.

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