Understanding the Next Generation of Volunteers

Ideas that resonated with past generations don't necessarily align with today's youth. Learn their motivations to attract and retain them as volunteers.

Volunteering stands as a timeless pillar of societal progress and communal welfare, embodying the collective efforts of people striving to make a difference. However, in today's rapidly evolving world, captivating the interest of and sustaining Gen Z’s commitment toward volunteer work pose unique challenges.
The ideas that resonated with previous generations might not align as effectively with the values, preferences, and aspirations of today's youth. Understanding their motivations is essential in not only attracting but also retaining their interest in volunteerism.
Let’s delve deeper into the multifaceted landscape of the next generation of volunteers.

Female student smiling at the university holding notebook

Purpose-Driven Engagement 

The upcoming generation has a fervent sense of purpose. They seek meaning and value in their endeavors, and volunteer work is no exception. Organizations seeking to engage this demographic must clearly articulate their missions and illustrate how volunteers contribute to tangible, impactful outcomes. Highlighting the inherent value of their contributions fosters a sense of purpose and fulfillment, thereby attracting and retaining their interest.

Best Practices 

1. Clearly Define and Communicate the Mission
  • Mission Clarity: Articulate a clear and compelling mission statement that communicates your organization's purpose and the impact volunteers make toward achieving it.
  • Alignment with Values: Ensure the mission resonates with the values and aspirations of the volunteers, emphasizing how their contributions are integral to fulfilling your mission.
2. Highlight Impact and Meaningful Outcomes
  • Impactful Communication: Share stories, statistics, and testimonials that illustrate the tangible impact of volunteer efforts on beneficiaries, communities, or causes.
  • Connect Volunteer Contributions: Clearly link volunteer tasks to the broader mission and outcomes achieved, reinforcing the significance of their contributions.
3. Empower Volunteers with Ownership and Autonomy
  • Autonomy in Roles: Offer opportunities for volunteers to take ownership of their roles, allowing them to contribute in ways that align with their strengths and interests.
  • Encourage Initiative: Foster an environment that encourages volunteers to propose and implement new ideas or initiatives aligned with the organization's mission.
4. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Development
  • Skill Enhancement: Offer training, workshops, or mentorship programs that facilitate skill development and personal growth, empowering volunteers to excel in their roles.
  • Personalized Development Plans: Create individualized development plans tailored to volunteers' aspirations and interests within the scope of their contributions.
5. Foster a Sense of Community and Belonging
  • Community Engagement: Facilitate interactions among volunteers, creating a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose through events, forums, or networking opportunities.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: Regularly acknowledge and appreciate volunteer efforts, reinforcing their sense of belonging and value within the community.
6. Align Organizational Values with Volunteer Engagement
  • Ethical and Transparent Practices: Ensure that the organization's values align with the ethical practices upheld in volunteer engagement, fostering trust and credibility among volunteers.
  • Demonstrate Integrity: Uphold transparency in operations and decision-making processes, reflecting the organization's commitment to its values.
7. Encourage Reflection and Meaning-Making
  • Reflection Opportunities: Provide platforms for volunteers to reflect on their experiences, encouraging them to derive personal meaning and purpose from their contributions.
  • Storytelling and Impact Sharing: Share narratives that highlight personal journeys and the profound impact of volunteering, inspiring others and reinforcing purpose-driven engagement.
8. Measure and Share Impact
9. Foster Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Adapt to Evolving Needs: Remain flexible and adaptive to changing volunteer interests and needs, adjusting programs or opportunities to ensure continued alignment with purpose.
  • Diverse Engagement Options: Provide diverse and adaptable volunteering opportunities, allowing volunteers to engage in ways that suit their preferences and schedules.
10. Solicit Feedback and Encourage Participation
  • Open Communication Channels: Create avenues for volunteers to provide feedback, voice concerns, and actively participate in shaping the volunteer program, fostering a sense of ownership.
  • Responsive to Input: Actively consider and implement volunteer feedback to enhance engagement strategies and ensure alignment with their expectations.

How to Future Proof Your Volunteer Program

Volunteer numbers are falling and people are feeling the pinch from the increased cost of living, resulting in fewer people offering their time to support your cause. So how do you ensure your volunteer program can continue?


Technological Integration

In the digital age, technology has become an integral part of everyday life. Leveraging technology to streamline volunteer experiences is not just an option but a necessity. Embracing mobile apps for sign-ups, utilizing social media for community engagement, and establishing online platforms for virtual volunteering not only enhance accessibility but also align with the preferred modes of communication and interaction among the younger generations.

Best Practices

1. Identify Specific Needs and Goals
2. User-Friendly Platforms and Tools
  • Ease of Use: Prioritize user-friendly platforms and tools that are intuitive and accessible across various devices and operating systems.
  • Training and Support: Provide comprehensive training and ongoing support to ensure volunteers are comfortable using the technology.
3. Volunteer Management Software
  • Comprehensive Solutions: Invest in volunteer management software that streamlines administrative tasks such as volunteer registration, scheduling, communication, and reporting.
  • Customization: Customize the software to fit the unique needs of the volunteer program, ensuring seamless integration and usability.
4. Communication Tools
  • Multi-Channel Communication: Utilize communication tools that enable effective interaction among volunteers, organizers, and stakeholders through emails, SMS, or collaboration platforms.
  • Real-Time Communication: Implement tools that facilitate real-time communication and updates to keep volunteers informed and engaged.
5. Virtual Engagement Platforms
  • Virtual Opportunities: Leverage technology to provide virtual volunteering opportunities, allowing volunteers to contribute remotely or engage in online projects.
  • Online Collaboration: Use platforms that facilitate online collaboration and teamwork among volunteers working on virtual projects.
6. Data Security and Privacy Measures
  • Security Protocols: Implement robust data security measures to protect volunteer information and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Transparent Policies: Communicate clearly about data handling practices to build trust and confidence among volunteers.
7. Analytics and Reporting Tools
  • Metrics and Analysis: Utilize analytics tools to gather and analyze data related to volunteer engagement, program effectiveness, and impact.
  • Reporting Functionality: Generate comprehensive reports to communicate the impact of volunteer efforts and the overall success of the program.
8. Continuous Improvement and Adaptation
  • Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback mechanism to collect input from volunteers about the technology's usability, functionality, and areas for improvement.
  • Adaptation: Use feedback to continuously refine and improve the technological infrastructure of the volunteer program.
9. Integration with Existing Systems
10. Accessibility Considerations
  • Accessibility Features: Ensure that technology used in the program complies with accessibility standards to accommodate volunteers with diverse needs and abilities.
  • Inclusive Design: Prioritize inclusive design principles to create technology that is accessible to all volunteers.

Digital Workforce Transformation

Unlock the true potential of your volunteers and paid staff by embracing technology to streamline your workforce management.


Flexible and Diverse Opportunities

Flexibility is key when engaging the next generation of volunteers. They value autonomy and diverse experiences. Organizations should offer a spectrum of volunteer opportunities—ranging from short-term to long-term commitments, virtual to on-site engagements, skill-based projects to cause-specific initiatives—to cater to diverse interests, skill sets, and schedules. Providing a plethora of options allows volunteers to align their passions with their volunteering commitments, fostering a deeper sense of engagement.

Best Practices

1. Assess Volunteer Preferences and Availability
  • Surveys and Feedback: Gather insights through surveys or feedback sessions to understand volunteers' preferences, availability, and the types of opportunities they seek.
  • Demographic Consideration: Take into account the diversity within your volunteer base, including different age groups, skill sets, and backgrounds.
2. Offer Varied Engagement Options
  • Range of Commitments: Provide options for short-term, long-term, one-time events, ongoing projects, and micro-volunteering opportunities to accommodate varying time commitments.
  • Virtual and In-Person Opportunities: Offer flexibility by providing virtual, remote, or on-site volunteering options to cater to different preferences and geographical limitations.
3. Create Tailored Roles and Projects
  • Skill-Based Roles: Develop roles that leverage volunteers' specific skills and expertise, allowing them to contribute meaningfully based on their strengths.
  • Personalized Engagement: Tailor opportunities to align with volunteers' interests, passions, and motivations, ensuring they find purpose in their contributions.
4. Communicate Clear Expectations
  • Transparent Descriptions: Clearly outline the expectations, tasks, and impact of each volunteer opportunity to help volunteers make informed choices.
  • Flexibility Communication: Emphasize the flexibility and adaptability of roles to ensure volunteers understand they can tailor their involvement.
5. Provide Training and Support
  • Skills Development: Offer training, workshops, or resources to enhance volunteers' skills and capabilities, empowering them to excel in their roles.
  • Ongoing Support: Establish support systems and channels for volunteers to seek guidance, ask questions, and address concerns throughout their engagement.
6. Enable Easy Sign-Up and Participation
  • Accessible Sign-Up Processes: Simplify the registration and sign-up procedures, making it easy for volunteers to join and get involved.
  • Clear Communication Channels: Utilize various communication platforms to keep volunteers informed about opportunities, updates, and organizational news.
7. Recognize and Appreciate Contributions
8. Gather Feedback and Adapt
  • Continuous Feedback Loops: Encourage feedback from volunteers about their experiences and preferences to refine and adapt the range of opportunities offered.
  • Adaptation: Use feedback to adjust and expand the range of opportunities to better suit the evolving needs and interests of volunteers.
9. Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
  • DEI Initiatives: Ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are embedded in the volunteer program, creating an environment where everyone feels valued and included.
  • Accessibility Consideration: Consider accessibility needs to ensure opportunities are inclusive and accessible to all volunteers.
10. Measure Impact and Share Stories
  • Impact Assessment: Regularly evaluate the impact of diverse volunteer engagements and communicate these successes through stories and metrics.
  • Storytelling: Share volunteer stories and testimonials that highlight the diverse contributions and the difference made by volunteers across various roles and opportunities.

Cheerful group of friends laughing together on yellow background-1


In navigating the landscape of the next generation of volunteers, one truth stands out: a deep understanding of their motivations, preferences, and aspirations is the cornerstone of successful engagement. This generation — driven by purpose, technological fluency, and a hunger for diverse experiences — presents both challenges and opportunities for organizations seeking to harness their potential in volunteerism.
By acknowledging the intrinsic desire for purposeful engagement, organizations can articulate their missions and demonstrate the tangible impact of volunteer contributions. This clarity fosters a sense of purpose and fulfillment among the next generation, enticing them to engage more deeply in causes that resonate with their values.
Technological integration emerges as a powerful tool, not just for convenience, but as a means to meet Gen Z's expectation for seamless interaction and accessibility. Leveraging technology creates pathways for engagement that align with their preferred modes of communication and interaction, thus bridging the gap between intention and action.
Furthermore, offering flexible and diverse opportunities acknowledges the multifaceted nature of their interests and schedules. Providing a spectrum of volunteer roles — from short-term commitments to virtual engagements — allows them to tailor their involvement, empowering them to contribute in ways that align with their passions and availability.
The next generation's engagement in volunteerism requires a departure from traditional approaches. Organizations poised to engage them must adapt, embrace innovation, and cultivate a culture of inclusivity.
By doing so, they not only attract and retain the next generation of volunteers but also nurture a vibrant community of purpose-driven individuals committed to making a meaningful difference in the world. This understanding lays the foundation for building robust and impactful volunteer programs that resonate with the evolving dynamics of future generations.

About Rosterfy

Rosterfy exists to connect communities to events and causes they are passionate about through volunteer and paid workforce management technology. Our proven end to end technology allows charities, events, and nonprofit organizations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage, and report with ease, replacing manual processes with automations to better engage and retain your volunteers and paid staff.

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