Nonprofits Engaging Millennials: DoSomething.org’s Study and Its Real-Life Parallels
In my previous blog post about nonprofits and economic downturns, one recommendation for volunteer engagement was to look outside of the typical generations to which your nonprofit appeals.
DoSomething.org created a study that supplements the idea of integrating Millennials into your nonprofit by showing the who, what, when, where, why and how of Millennials and their volunteering tendencies.
When I read this study, I was amazed by how their findings paralleled my experience of volunteering during my teen years.
The Social Volunteer
When I was in high school, I participated in Key Club, an organization based on introducing young people to volunteering. I heard about this club through my friends, telling me about how “cool” and “fun” it was and how all of my friends were participating.
For nonprofits, this word of mouth method of communication is incredibly influential for Millennials. DoSomething reports that “75.9% of those whose friends volunteer also volunteer.”
Let this statistic be your guide when appealing to Millennials. Create a welcoming environment, encourage your volunteers to tell their friends, and let the social nature of volunteering be the invisible hand that brings in more Millennials.
The Social Nonprofit
My most memorable volunteer opportunity was when I created a martial arts performance with an amazing guy with developmental disabilities. The greatest enjoyment I experienced was when the theater audience roared in applause as he stood above me after defeating me in a choreographed fight. I helped him achieve pride in something he loves doing, while he helped me find pride in something I had done.
DoSomething.org’s main reasons for creating this study was because Millennials are social creatures that learn of volunteering opportunities through friends, and also find satisfaction in donating their time for the benefit of others. If you want to engage this social generation, design your volunteer opportunities to have Millennials interact with others. Humanize their experience in order for them to feel like they’re changing lives, so they can say,“I believe I made a difference in my community.”
Millennials have a lot on their plate: friends, homework, extracurriculars, applying to colleges or jobs. This means that for nonprofits, flexibility is key.
DoSomething.org recommends that nonprofits should “Allow for different levels of engagement (5 min vs. an hour vs. a half day)” so their volunteers can come and go according to their schedules.
When I was applying to colleges and also needing to make time to study and attend basketball practice, volunteering became more and more difficult. The opportunities that allowed me to walk through the door, help however I could, and leave when I needed to were the nonprofits I contributed to regularly. So when I had an entire free day to volunteer, those were the nonprofits I wanted to volunteer for. Be accommodating to your volunteers and they will reward you accordingly.
Many of us want to believe that all volunteers are purely altruistic in nature. The reality is that many people want some sort of benefit to come from the time they invest in a volunteer opportunity. This is especially true for Millennials, as they are either currently concerned about college or in the midst of job hunting. As a nonprofit, this can be to your benefit for engaging volunteers.
Attaching a non-monetary incentive to your opportunity, such as a resume booster or some type of scholarship opportunity, can greatly increase your nonprofit’s appeal to Millennials. From each volunteer opportunity I have participated in, I have gained skills and found advocates that support me in my journey towards a career. Recognize your volunteers by rewarding them for their effort, time, and dedication.
DoSomething.org’s report provided detailed insights on Millennials and their participation in civic engagement. When I read the study, I was constantly saying “That sounds exactly like what I experienced.” So think about how your nonprofit can tailor its practices to incorporate a generation full of volunteer potential.
(Photo Cred. to Middlesex School via Flickr)