A New Generation of Service: Millennials and Volunteering

  • Written by Alexandra Frazier

“I was your age once…”

So begin the musings of Baby Boomers to their lazy, instant-gratification-obsessed children. Or, at least, we assume that’s how conversations begin with entitled Gen Y-ers—it’s certainly what we’ve been led to believe by the countless articles that discuss Millennials’ inability to grow up and move out of their parents’ basements. Perhaps it’s time we quit listening to the naysayers. Because, according to recent research, Millennials really, really want to make a positive impact in their community.

Indeed, a spirit of service animates the Millennial generation (otherwise known as those Americans born between 1980 and 2000). The 2013 Millennial Impact Report states that 73% of Millennials volunteered for a nonprofit in 2012.

Raised on a diet of Facebook and social media engagement, Millennials seek to become part of a volunteer network that’s as excited and eager to make a difference as they are. In the Impact Report, over three-quarters of Millennials cite “passion for the cause” as their primary motivation for supporting nonprofit work, either through monetary donations or volunteerism.

The 2013 Millennial Impact Report outlines how Millennials get involved with, connect, and give to nonprofits.

Although 83% of the Impact Report’s respondents made a financial gift to a nonprofit in 2012, most Millennials don’t have the financial resources to contribute big money to the causes they care about. As a result, Millennials are more open to skills-based volunteering than their older, established counterparts. And they’re especially interested in opportunities that highlight peer involvement, interconnectedness, and career/social networking.

Furthermore, Millennials are bringing this interest in giving to the workplace. Forbes contributor and Millennial Branding founder Dan Schwabel says of Millennials that, because they “believe that business should focus on a societal purpose” (not just a bottom line), they are forcing corporate America to evolve in a socially responsible way. In a 2012 survey conducted by The Intelligence Group, 61% of Millennials replied that “alignment with social causes” is a “somewhat” to “very important” characteristic in a brand. The logic follows that Millennials who recognize the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in their favorite brands will seek to create opportunities for social good in their own offices.

Ultimately, Millennials are ready volunteers who pack the extra-powerful punch of believing in what they’re doing. After all, we were their age once. And perhaps we could learn a thing or two from their youthful idealism and commitment to the causes they care about. At the end of the day, what nonprofit organization couldn’t benefit from a young person’s passion for helping others in the here and now?