Business & Community
There is a misconception that the generation born between 1980 and 2000, known as millennials, is selfish and unempathetic, when in fact, the opposite may be true. They just care a little differently. Their minds are on the big picture as they focus on changing the world. When it comes to volunteerism, they want to engage in real experiences and resolve real issues. They desire to not only share their time and talents, but to also lead the initiatives. Leave it to millennials to carve their own path.
According to The Millennial Impact Report, a ten-year study by the Case Foundation, millennials do care about the world around them. Their primary focus is on issues, such as civil rights, racial discrimination, education, unemployment, and adequate healthcare for immediate and extended family members. When you stop and think about it, these are key issues facing many Americans today.
Millennials are passionate about specific causes and not necessarily a particular institution or even a particular political party. They believe in their own power. With a stroke of a digital device, and with help from their peers, they believe they can make a difference in the world. So, how can organizations like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System harness talent from this group of volunteers?
The United States Census Bureau estimates there are approximately 73 million millennials in the United States and more than half currently volunteer. The Millennial Impact Report also states they are a diverse and highly educated group of young people. So, one of the biggest challenges for organizations when considering millennial volunteers is to keep them engaged. Organizations might also consider the following suggestions.
- Millennials understand community service. However, community service projects should be geared toward a particular cause and purpose driven. So, make the purpose, goals, and other important company information easily accessible, including volunteer opportunities and impacts.
- Learn what they want to get out of the volunteer experience and provide feedback often.
- Find volunteer initiatives that exist in their own communities.
- Offer volunteer opportunities that allow millennials to gain new skills or experiences.
- Assign them to teams, particularly with peers, and create opportunities for them to network and meet new people.
- Meet them where they are. Be sure to ask millennials about their skills and find volunteer opportunities that match those skills. If training is necessary, be sure to assign a mentor along the way.
- Understand that millennials like to be technologically social, so opportunities to use social media will go a long way.
In closing, millennials care about major issues and the world around them. Most of them believe they can make a difference by focusing on specific causes that impact their generation. If organizations provide opportunities with high impact potential, then chances are they will find willing and engaged candidates among this group of volunteers.
Visit the Volunteer in Urban Programs page to find out how to volunteer for Urban Extension.