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How to recruit younger volunteers

Nonprofits have long relied on older, retired volunteers for many of their volunteering needs, but are realizing they need to start engage and recruit younger volunteers, especially as COVID has kept older volunteers away. But how do you reach a generation that’s constantly on their phones? First, meet them where they are. Then, give them a good reason to engage with reality. 

Meet Gen Z: the future of your volunteerforce 💥

Gen Z (aka Zoomers) sometimes get a bad rap for being on their phones constantly, but they are the first generation to grow up fully connected to the internet. They are tech natives, and many of them are incredibly talented in digital media creation and marketing—they understand it, they know what works. (Hint: You should use this to your organization’s advantage!) They also prefer communication over forms of social media and texts more than phone calls. Engaging with them digitally is super important as this generation spends an average of 4 hours on their phone daily, and over a quarter claim they spend more than 10 hours a day on their phones. 

This is a generation of artists, activists, and entrepreneurs. Self-expression is core to who they are, and they are unapologetic about their views. They have strong ethics and expect a lot from the brands they interact with. They aren’t going to do charity work because “it’s the right thing to do,” but rather because they genuinely want to do good and make positive social impacts. Gen Z is generally more liberal, pro-diversity, and concerned with social justice and racial equity (even among conservative Zoomers). Their generation is less trusting of institutions and generally anxious about the future—with a whopping 83% being extremely worried about climate change (and rightfully so). They grew up in a time when the U.S. was in a constant 20-year war, financial markets have collapsed twice (2008 and 2020), they’ve seen millennials with college degrees struggling with student debt, and the global pandemic as they’re entering adulthood has added extra uncertainty. 

Here are the top causes Gen Z cares about:

Equality, Education, Jobs, Health, and Climate

So basically, they recognize that there is a lot that needs to be done to make the world a better place, and they care about it. The challenge is how to turn their passion into action, because, let’s face it, only posting on Instagram isn’t gonna cut it.

How to recruit Gen Z volunteers 📲

Location, location, location! The age old saying remains true, but now the location is digital. Younger volunteers want to have everything accessible on their phones, so if you don’t have a way to easily connect over mobile platforms, ya kinda need one. That’s why POINT exists, to simplify nonprofit admin’s lives and give you an easy way to connect with younger volunteers through our app. But more than that, Gen Z gets into volunteering because…

Volunteering is required ✅

Many high schools and even some universities have volunteering requirements for students. That’s why POINT partners with schools to connect students with volunteering opportunities for all of the causes they care about in their city. Creating great experiences keeps students coming back, even after they’ve met their requirements. Do this by making it easy to find, sign up for, and remember your volunteer opportunities, and by encouraging volunteers to form connections with each other so they make friends and want to come back often. POINT makes volunteer sign ups ridiculously easy, we send automatic reminders, and we show a list of the volunteers who have signed up for an opportunity so that people know who else is going. 

They feel social pressure 👀

Peer pressure can be a good thing. Encourage your younger volunteers to post on social media when they’re volunteering, because when people are seeing friends volunteer it’s a great way to motivate them to show up for community too. Even creating a social media presence for your nonprofit can be helpful—posting pictures of your volunteers shows people what they’re missing out on, and when you pop up in people’s feeds they are reminded to sign up for your opportunities. Don’t have a social media account? Give your Gen Z volunteers an opportunity to create one for you and work on their digital marketing skills! They’ll love it. 

How to engage Zoomers

Now you know how to reach and recruit Gen Z, but how do you keep them engaged?

Gen Z cares about impact ❣️

Make sure your volunteers understand exactly how their tasks are tied to your organization’s mission, and why that matters to your community. Use storytelling to keep them engaged with your cause. Share impact stories from the people you serve, share why a certain task matters to your organization’s goals or clients, and talk about the progress your organization has made over time to solve issues in your community. Plus, when you use POINT, your volunteers can track their personal impact over time which provides a sense of commitment and accomplishment.

Give ’em the deets 🔍

Gen Z is set to be the most educated generation ever, and they have a remarkable capacity to understand complex information and see the ways that systemic structures perpetuate issues in our society. And they care about knowing this. Give them the details of why the issues you’re trying to solve exist, how they’re connected to other issues or policies, and give Gen Z volunteers the opportunity to craft innovative solutions that might be helpful to your organization in meeting community needs more effectively.

POINTer: use your Zoomer volunteers to design infographics or carousels for social media that help highlight facts, issues, barriers to overcoming, and success stories that relate to your cause. 

Market your volunteering opportunities putting impact first 📣

When posting about volunteer opportunities on POINT, we give you the space to write a title and a description of the event. Use this wisely. Rather than describing the task and just listing things to bring or know before coming, use this space to really engage potential volunteers with a why. Don’t say “Packing boxes” in your title, say “Pack food boxes for unhoused neighbors”. Right from the get go, let your volunteers know why their effort matters. Use the descriptions to give details on why this is significant. For instance, you could share a statistic about how many people in your city are unhoused, difficulties faced by being unhoused, and why packing those food boxes makes a tangible difference to the people you serve. As Simon Sinek says, people don’t care what you do, they care why you do it. 

An example of POINT events – a generic title vs. a title with a why

Photography is your friend 📸

All opportunities on POINT are listed with a picture. Visual branding is really important to Gen Z. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hire a professional photographer or shell out money for nice stock photos, but rather to be conscious about the photos you choose to use.

Stock photos of smiling volunteers in matching t-shirts are out, as well as overused illustrations of hands and hearts, and images that look super posed and generic.

Attract more volunteers to your opportunities by using photos that are colorful, artsy and modern (think: clean, bright, Instagram-worthy), show people authentically smiling and interacting, or are action-oriented. 

Check out how Glossier’s branding (a beauty company loved by Gen Z) compares to typical nonprofit branding.

Tech is critical to recruit and engage Gen Z volunteers 👩🏾‍💻

We give you all the tools you need to recruit and engage younger volunteers. A mobile app to meet volunteers where they are (on their phones, duh), an impact-first approach to volunteering, a platform to market your opportunities in engaging ways, and features to ensure signing up and remembering to show up is as easy as possible.

Want to learn more about how POINT can help you recruit and engage younger volunteers? Book a demo and talk to a member of our team! 

Cover image via Annie E. Casey Foundation

Photo Stephanie Page
Stephanie Page
Head of Outreach

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.