There has been a significant amount of interest in engaging millennial or younger volunteers in organizations, with a lot of confusion as to how to engage this cohort.
Have you looked at your member and volunteer demographics and are you prepared for embracing their needs and motivations? Have you addressed this at your Board and Committee meetings? Does your website provide the necessary information to attract younger volunteers?
First, before I even address this issue, there are a few foundational steps you need to have in place.
They include the following:
- Using technology in a way that will attract and educate your potential volunteers
- Designating a professional that understands the needs of volunteers
- Onboarding and screening process that reflects what you and the volunteer needs to know prior to engaging in activities
- A role description and appropriate training
- Support and supervision best practice model
- Policies and procedures and risk management plans that are related to volunteer engagement
- Meaningful recognition that reflects the diversity of your organization
- Succession planning that will attract the right volunteer based on skills and knowledge
- Annual evaluation plan of your program and not just your volunteers
If you don’t have these in place then there is a lot of work to do.
So how do we engage the younger volunteers?
You need to start with information. Potential volunteers want to be informed about how they can make a difference, how they can make an impact and how volunteering will fit into their schedules.
They expect to be supported in their role and want to actively participate in many facets of the organization. If this cohort feels that they are making a difference while learning and growing they will be open to leadership roles in the future.
It is important to understand and utilize the skills and talents of individuals and you need to cultivate these relationships as a means of further engagement.
You need to think about recruiting for:
- Willingness to learn
Are you engaging others in your organization to identify roadblocks to volunteering before you ask the big question of “Will you be interested in volunteering?”
Consider that millennial volunteers are looking for ways to share their passion, meet new people and learn skills.
Consider that millennial volunteers are a 24/7-generation that likes to have access quickly and at their fingertips.
Millennial volunteers are globally aware, connected and constantly changing their social media patterns.
Millennial volunteers want to be connected but require flexibility to feel comfortable in their decisions.
So where do you start?
Start by asking the right questions.
- What is working and what is not?
- Have we set achievable goals and ensure that there is someone who has their eye on the prize
- Where are your gaps?
- Who are your potential volunteers and what do they want?
- Have you sent out a survey to ask these questions or are you guessing?
- Does your website have volunteer engagement pages that talk about the roles, opportunities and expectations
So how de we engage this younger group?
- Provide a purpose and value to their volunteer participation
- Build in opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills
- Accommodate the need for flexibility, episodic and virtual opportunities
- Consider a mentorship or coaching program to encourage growth and build your succession plans
- Develop project based volunteer opportunities like ambassador programs where they can share their passion and connect to their communities
- Ensure that you website has meaningful content about how to get involved, the value of volunteering, the benefits and expectations, tell stories and use pictures
Look to other organizations that have been innovative in their volunteer engagement practices because if you wait too long you will have missed some great opportunities.
"The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."
-- Mark Zuckerberg
For more information about volunteer engagement and a list of workshops and articles go to lorigotliebconsulting.wordpress.com.
For expertise and advise, contact Lori Gotlieb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers can be as big a stumbling block for an organization as they can an invaluable resource. In his book, A Practical Guide to Governing Your Volunteer Organization, Tom Abbott discusses problems and solutions that can help you better incorporate into your organization what Lori is talking about here, while also addressing other volunteer-related issues.