Engaging young volunteers to assist in your cause can provide new perspectives, skillsets, and backgrounds.

Youth volunteering is less common than any other age group in the United States. Only 21.8% of individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 volunteer according to data gathered in 2015 by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even with low commitment metrics, the need for young volunteers continues to rise with technology advancements and a need for specific skillsets that are often acquired by the younger generation.

Engaging young volunteers is quickly becoming a must to ensure the sustainability of the volunteer sector.

In order for your nonprofit to begin engaging young volunteers, you need to fully understand their motivations and expectations.


Young Volunteer Motivations/Expectations

Young volunteers (16-24) share several similarities with their older volunteer counterparts as well as many differences. Some of the commonalities between younger and older volunteers are the desire to provide a service in exchange for the betterment of the community. It is common for young volunteers to look at volunteer opportunities differently in several areas.

If you want to engage young volunteers, it is crucial to understand that they are more receptive to new ideas than other generations. Young volunteers are also open-minded, energetic, technology savvy, and enjoy participating in volunteer experiences within a social group.

It is also important to note that many young volunteers are career focused and are looking for training opportunities and skill attainment in exchange for their time commitment. Finally, many young volunteers (not all) need to fulfill community service hours for high school graduation or other extracurricular activities they are participating in.


Here are a few strategic ways to engage young volunteers:

Start Engaging Young Volunteers by Using Technology

As mentioned earlier, younger volunteers are typically tech savvy. Due to the strong technical background of younger volunteers, it is key to position your nonprofit by investing in and using technology to appeal to them and make processes easier at the same time.

Technology can be used to attract volunteers (example: social media, website) and make the action of volunteer recruitment and opportunity fulfillment streamlined (example: volunteer management software). Volunteer management solutions can be used to provide volunteers with the ability to sign-up for opportunities with just a few clicks of the mouse.

A manual paper-heavy recruitment process is an easy way to scare off young prospects.

For additional tips, insights, and advice on choosing the best volunteer management technology to reach your nonprofit’s goals download our whitepaper


Tell Compelling and Sharable Stories…. Often

Storytelling has become very popular in nonprofit marketing over the past few years and for good reason. Telling compelling and shareable stories helps to demonstrate impact and create a buzz around the mission. Storytelling also is a great strategy for creating content that can be shared across multiple platforms (social, blog, email) in a variety of digestible ways (video, infographics, audio, content).

Storytelling appeals to both young and older generations of volunteers. The strategy can be used for engaging young volunteers by marketing a movement, involving young people in the stories, and making the solution (your nonprofit) resonate with the younger crowd.

Let young volunteers know they have the power to make a real difference!


Engage Young Volunteer’s with Incentives

Incentives are a great way to captivate a younger audience and entice them to volunteer their time to your cause.

As discussed earlier, many young people are looking to earn extra credit, gain internship experience, and get a jump start in their careers. Providing career development opportunities is an excellent incentive to help volunteers achieve this goal.

Nonprofits can increase their reach and value-add by partnering with local universities, colleges, and high schools in the area.

Nonprofits can also entice younger people to volunteer by providing social outlets for them. Organizations should market networking opportunities that specifically target young people in the community.

Finally, Nonprofits can offer opportunity fulfillment incentives such as rewards and recognition through gamification to feed into friendly competition and comradery, often found amongst young people.


Engage Young Volunteer’s by Feeding into Strengths

Another method of engaging young volunteers is by creating roles within the organization that take advantage of their tech-savvy nature. Ask young volunteers to manage your nonprofits text communications, engage on social media, market volunteer and fundraising opportunities or put on events. These are just a few of the many roles young people may excel at within your nonprofit.

If you are not sure which roles appeal the most to your volunteer base it is time to ask them! Use your volunteer satisfaction survey as an opportunity to capture and leverage this type of detailed information.


Give Young Volunteer’s a Reason to Come Back

Last but not least is the most obvious way to engage young volunteers. Engage by making sure that you have a process in place to make volunteers feel welcome, feel impactful, and want to come back for future opportunities. Sometimes the best strategy is the most obvious tactic.

Your organization can make a great impression by being prepared throughout the entire opportunity for volunteers, being available at all times, reemphasizing the importance of each volunteer’s commitment, and following up post-opportunity fulfillment to ask about their experience with your organization.


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