Millennials and Volunteerism

A recent study[1] found that 92% of millennials are interested in making the world a better place.  That got me thinking:  Are millennials active as volunteers?  How can charitable organizations tap into their potential?

Millennials and Volunteering

Millennials and Volunteering

Volunteering Trends

The most recent data from Statistics Canada[2] paints an interesting picture.

  • Volunteer participation is highest for the 15 to 19 year old age group. While this is largely attributable to volunteer requirements for secondary school graduation, it does mean that millennials are getting an early introduction to volunteering.
  • The next highest levels of volunteer participation are among 35 to 44 year olds; a pattern which has been constant for many years. This suggests that millennials are on the cusp of their peak volunteering years if historical patterns hold true.
  • Volunteer participating has been declining and the decline in participation is greatest among the 35 to 44 year olds. It remains to be seen if this trend will reverse as the millennials enter this age bracket.
  • The volunteer population is aging. While the boomers have lower participations rates than 35 to 44 year olds, they contribute almost double the amount of time per volunteer. As boomers age, their hours drop off raising questions about who will step in to fill the gap.

5 Tips for Charitable Organizations

Volunteerism trends suggest that charitable organizations would do well to consider what steps they should be taking to attract millennials.  Here are some tips that may help.

  1. Communicate Your Cause – People volunteer for organizations because they have a feel a connection to its cause. Be clear with millennials about who you serve and the value you provide. Millennials want to contribute. Help them see how they can contribute by volunteering with you.
  2. Help Them Develop – Millennials are achievement oriented – they want to learn and experience new things. Provide volunteering opportunities that will allow them to develop new skills or use their current skills in a different context. If possible make volunteering a social experience with opportunities for networking.
  3. Be Easy to Find and Easy to Serve – Barriers to volunteering include lack of time and not knowing how to get involved. Get millennials involved by making your organization easy to access on social media. They are comfortable with technology.  Use it make them aware of what you do, recruit them as volunteers, orient them and share information. Deal with time constraints by providing a menu of short and long opportunities to choose from.
  4. Be Appreciative – Most people like to be recognized for their contribution and millennials are no exception. Thank them for what they do for you. They also value frequent feedback – so thank them often and provide coaching on what they are doing well and how they can contribute more effectively.
  5. Leverage Corporate Philanthropy – Millennials appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the community as part of their job and many organizations are introducing corporate philanthropy initiatives the help attract this generation. Look for organizations that support and encourage volunteerism and find ways to work with them to connect with new volunteers.

Final Thoughts

So back to the study on millennials and volunteering:  When millennials were asked  why they chose to volunteer 79% said it was because they were passionate about the cause; 61% said it was to broaden their professional skills; and 56% said it was because they wanted to meet new people.

While millennials are not yet volunteering at the levels of earlier generations, I am optimistic that they represent significant potential.  Organizations that respond to their interests and engage with them now will be sowing seeds for the future.

by:  Laren Stadelman MBA FCMC

Laren Stadelman is an experienced management consultant and leadership coach who focuses on not-for-profit and public sector and organizations. An active volunteer, Laren has served on hospital, community and professional association boards. Laren is the President of Stadelman Consulting, an Associate Partner with the Berkeley Consulting Group, and a member of NextGenLeaders.


[1] What Millennials Want from Work – J. Deal and A. Levenson; McGraw Hill  and the Centre for Creative Leadership; 2016

[2] Volunteering and Charitable Giving in Canada – Statistics Canada website –'

Author: Editor

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