Millennial Volunteerism

It turns out, millennials aren’t as selfish as we thought.

Kelsey Luke
2 min readFeb 20, 2018


Millennials — the generation born between 1980 and 2000 — are often known as the generation that is entitled, is self-centered and lacks empathy. New studies about millennial giving and volunteerism, however, suggests that the generation is actually much more generous than thought. In fact, 70 percent of millennials regularly volunteer. Compare this to baby boomers and Generation X, in which 61 percent and 63 percent (respectively) volunteer regularly.

If millennials are actually more generous than previously thought, what motivates them to volunteer? And why should we care?

Most millennials are more likely to volunteer if they feel connected to the cause. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been personally impacted by the core issue. It can be as simple as hearing someone’s story who has been affected. The point is — this generation is more compelled than other generations to search for causes that resonate with them. Common issues that attract millennials’ attention are education, health care and the environment.

Another factor that motivates millennials to volunteer or donate is evidence of impact. 77 percent of millennials are more likely to volunteer if they can use their skill set and if they see examples of the impact of their time or donations.

This generation is more likely to donate their time as opposed to their money. With the average student loan debt out of college being over $37,000, millennials consider their time to be a better-spent asset than their money. If they do donate money, it is likely to be connected to an experience such as a fundraiser walk or run.

Millennials want to help their communities and believe they have the power to do so. In fact, 90 percent of millennials in the United States think that they can positively impact the country and make it a better place to live. Now the largest living generation in the United States, their behaviors, intentions, and interactions dictate much of how our society functions. For nonprofits, it is important to consider these behaviors when trying to attract and retain volunteers.

In short, nonprofits can take three simple steps to help retain millennial volunteers:

  1. Clearly tell volunteers what your mission is and how their work will contribute to it. Then, update them on your organization’s progress and illustrate their impact.
  2. Tell a personal story about how someone (or something) has been impacted by the issue at hand and how your cause has helped.
  3. Ask them what their specific skills are and leverage that knowledge when asking them to volunteer.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of this generation wants to make a difference — it is just about helping them find the way to do it that is right for them.