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Under-engaged and Under-utilized: A Look at Millennial Volunteers

Posted By Erik Hillesheim , Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. These are the people who know your organization inside and out, the ones who’ve been there through it all. They’re the underappreciated, sometimes invisible, backbone of many of the successes of your organization. Now, how do you go about finding those volunteers?


As I look across the board with all of the many of the organizations that Ewald works for, I see a distinct group of volunteers that are under-recruited and underutilized. Millennials are beginning to fill up our organizations just as they are the work force. Here are some tips and tricks on how to better utilize, onboard, and retain Millennials as volunteers in your organization.


1.      Customization. Millennials are one of the most passionate generations when they’re doing what they love. By allowing them to champion a specific task that they’re motivated to do, you can capitalize on their energy and innovation to revamp old processes, inspire members to become more involved, and expand the reach of your organization.

2.      The tiered volunteer program. Millennials value flexibility. Strategically creating volunteer positions that allow for flexibility in terms of time and scope of work is ideal. By allowing different levels of commitment you’ll be able to better attract Millennials and retain them in those positions.

3.      Project value. It’s important to convey how meaningful what they’re doing is. It’s also very helpful to put them on important projects with seasoned volunteers. The more influential the project is to the organization, the more engaged they will become. By giving them these big opportunities, they’ll feel valued and will come back year after year. This also helps transition out some of your more senior volunteers. By sharing the aspects of your most important volunteer roles you’ll also have smoother transitions when a volunteer leaves your organization.

4.      The importance of learning. I want to make two points here. On one hand, Millennials are much more willing to stick around if you can teach them and help them learn more. Whether this is about the organization, himself or herself, or your industry, Millennials value learning. On the other hand, your organization can learn a lot by employing millennial volunteers. You find out where they’re most effectively utilized, how they can contribute to your objectives, and how to adjust volunteer roles to better fit their style.

5.      Networking. Millennials are still young in their career. They’re building contacts and have the spark your organization needs to continue pushing your membership growth. By getting them more involved, you can use them on your membership outreach teams and grow your member base. (As an added bonus, there may be just a few of them that know a little bit about technology and would be willing to grow your social media and online presence.)


Getting Millennials involved as volunteers in your organization can provide immense benefits to you and your organizational goals. The importance of keeping Millennials front of mind in the volunteer search could bring your organization to new heights in unexpected areas. How has your organization utilized Millennials as volunteers? We’d love to hear about it.

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