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Three Ways to Create a Millennial-Compatible Volunteer Program

As the Millennial generation moves up in the world, one of the biggest challenges that the not-for-profit world has is updating their approach to fit the millennial desire to volunteer.  Millennials care deeply about the world around them and philanthropy/volunteerism is important to them. 

Tricks to get Millennials to Volunteer

1. Let Them Be Relational

Millennials love doing things in pairs. Call it the “Kindergarten Mentality.” Or the “Girls Bathroom Effect.” I consulted an organization that was trying to retain young volunteers and one of the simplest things they could change was to allow their volunteers to do things together. Even if it was as simple as changing a light bulb, Millennials stuck around when they had a friend beside them. Relationships are THE biggest motivational factor for Millennials’ participation at work, at church, and at a non-profit. [1] If you want more Millennial participation then provide a relationship-building factor to their service. Let them work in pairs, even if it doesn’t seem efficient, because you will gain a community of satisfied volunteers for your organization.

2. Let Them Be Heard

Looking to keep volunteers long-term? Hear them out. Millennials have a lot of ideas and they want them to be acknowledged. [2] We’re the generation of participation ribbons and universal medals—we want to matter. But, this can be an asset too. It’s easy to disregard what a Millennial says about your organization when they have only visited one time, but consider allowing them to fill out an evaluation sheet at the end of their service. Or have a small focus group where you genuinely listen to their opinions about how the volunteer experience could be improved for your organization. Knowing that they are heard, Millennials will want to stay involved at your organization because they know you are growing with them. WARNING: Millennials will want to see some of their changes implemented. If they don’t, they will stop participating. Maybe consider participation ribbons. Just kidding. Do consider how Millennial feedback might help your organization respond to a new generation of people looking to change the world just as you are.

3. Let Them Be Mentored

Many people view Millennials as “know-it-alls” who think their worldly knowledge has transcended their parents’ in everyway. Yet, you might be surprised to learn that Millennials strongly desire mentorship. They want to be taught. They want your wisdom, your friendship, and your experience. They will keep coming back because they know you have cared enough about them to speak truth into their lives when many of their peers are floundering as they are. Millennials are looking for direction and purpose. Mentors are there to help walk alongside them to provide clarity and direction in their lives. I volunteered with an organization who began our time together by sitting down one-on-one to talk about my goals and passions. They continued to take interest in my personal life as we served the organization. Two years later, I am still a devoted volunteer and a long-term advocate for this organization. Their investment in me has produced an invested volunteer.

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