Right now, there seems to be a real opportunity to redefine the culture of volunteerism in America, and it starts with Millennials. Millennials are a group of young people, defined by their civic duty, pragmatism, and sense of community. We are a sleeping giant of productivity. We are also equipped to use the power of the internet better than any generation before us. Websites like Volunteerfinder, Sparked and Catchafire already help make volunteering easier and more productive. A generation’s energy is ready to be unleashed, but finding the path to redefining volunteerism is tricky, and I’m not sure we can get there without significant change to the current system.
Millennials are supposed to be all about solving problems by giving back, but in 2011 we were the least likely generation to volunteer. Only 17% of us did. This may have as much to do with our age as our generation, but we’re certainly not distinguishing ourselves.
Technology has changed the way we do many things, including charitable contributions. Thanks to innovations like quick donate, the Obama campaign broke fundraising records in 2012. However, where quick donation technology catches us at the height of our passion, much of volunteering procedure requires sustained engagement.
First, volunteering takes more work than donating money. Pretty simple. Second, volunteering is more work for the organization. It is an investment of time and money to train volunteers. Third, there are legal barriers to a lot of volunteer opportunities that simply don’t exist with monetary donations. None of these are easy to change.
What if volunteering was more of a social event, less of a service? Can we change the perception that we are sacrificing when we volunteer? The ball is largely in the organizations court here. It would have to be proven that creating engaging, fun opportunities for volunteers was in their best interest. Until we prove it’s worth their time, they likely aren’t going to pour energy (or money) into creating highly engaging events.
I want to hear your ideas. How do we engage a generation to dive into the issues our world is facing? Is it a fool’s errand, or is there real possibility for progress? Our legacy as a generation is beginning to be written. What do we want it to say?
Comment below, or send me an email and give me your thoughts.