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Appealing to a younger audience: Recruiting Generation Y and Millenials to volunteerThere are 26 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States—a large resource of volunteers that has remained fairly untapped. Organizations overlooking this demographic may be missing a group with the potential to become lifetime volunteers and donors.As you know, it can be hard for young adult volunteers to take the first step. Fortunately, research shows that students attending school are encouraged, and sometimes required, by their institutions to volunteer, making them twice as likely to do so! So, it may just take the right marketing to point them your way.

Get caught in their web
When marketing toward Generation Y and the bit younger Millenials, their relationship with the media plays a key role in choosing what tactics to use. More than 90 percent of these generations are online, proving the web to be a valuable marketing tool.

Before you go all-out online, make sure your messaging is clear. Regardless of your media, we recommend that your organization:

  • Stress the benefits of volunteering (i.e. feelings of fulfillment, and it looks great on resumes!).
  • Discuss how their experiences will prepare them for the future through job-shadowing opportunities or other ways to gain knowledge.
  • Seal the deal with the ask. According to Independent Sector, less than half of 18- to 24-year-olds are asked to volunteer, and of those who were asked, nearly 90 percent did so.

Once your messaging is set, consider using these popular young-adult web sites and tools as part of a successful online recruitment campaign:

  • Facebookand MySpace — Fifty-five percent of young adults have created content on these social networking sites. Build an organizational profile, group or “page,” then use it to invite people to volunteer or donate.
  • Blogs — These can be great tools to build connections, gain insight and truly interact with young people. Read more about blogs in our related Blue PaperSM.
  • YouTube— Short, creative online videos that speak to your audience and relay your message have the potential to spread quickly. Even if you don’t strike gold right away, keep experimenting!

To promote your online endeavors, consider passing out mini optical mice or flash drives with the web addresses of your pages, blogs or videos.

Keep up the interest
You know that it’s just as important to keep volunteers as it is to get them. Sometimes they might need a little encouragement:

  • Give volunteers a special project — “You have to give them opportunities; it doesn’t just come from within. That’s only part of it—having desire—but you need something to hook your hands into. Something worthwhile that you feel like you can contribute to,” said James Youniss, a professor who studies how young people become engaged. Try finding out what they envision as their future career, and then steer their project in that direction.
  • Offer a sense of affiliation — Provide young adult volunteers at your organization with products that appeal to their generation(s). Earbuds, an iPod™ case or a ringtone download card serve as daily reminders of your gratitude.
  • Show them how they make a difference — Try demonstrating their impact on the community by taking photos or recording audio files of the individuals who benefit from your organization’s aid or volunteers. You could even give volunteers a digital camera or USB drive with the files pre-uploaded as a thank-you gift.

Optimizing your recruitment efforts to accommodate Generation Y and Millenial volunteers may likely require some extra research. Feel free to download our Blue PaperSM that features generational marketing to get you started. In the end, these extra efforts will be well-rewarded with plenty of new helping hands.

The Ad Council. “Engaging the Next Generation: How Nonprofits Can Reach Young Adults.” 16 Dec. 2008.

Keeter, Scott , Cliff Zukin, Molly Andolina, and Krista Jenkins. “The Civic and Political Health of the Nation: A Generational Portrait.” 19 Sep. 2002. The Pew Charitable Trusts. 22 Dec. 2008.

Lopez, Mark Hugo, Peter Levine, Deborah Both, Abby Kiesa et al. The 2006 Civic and Political Health of. Oct. 2006. The Pew Charitable Trusts. 5 Jan. 2009.

Lenhard, Amanda, Mary Madden, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, and Aaron Smith. “Parents, Teens and Technology.” Pew Research Center Publications. 19 Dec. 2007. PEW. 7 Jan. 2009.


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