Recruiting volunteers is a struggle in itself, but recruiting young volunteers presents a whole new set of challenges. They’re new to the industry (and still kind of observing), they don’t have a history with your association, they likely don’t know many people in your association (again, because they’re new), so getting them to go above and beyond...well, it’s tough.
So what’s the secret? IS there a secret? Unfortunately, there’s no one single hack, but there are a few little tricks. Take a look:
1. Re-emphasize the why
You may have heard before that young professionals (Millennials and Gen Z-ers, in particular) want to have an impact on society - and that’s true! They want to have an impact both personally and professionally. Knowing that, be sure to communicate the “why” when explaining and promoting your association’s volunteer opportunities. Will the task at hand help the local community? Will it help advance your association’s advocacy efforts? Let these things be known! You’re likely to garner more interest.
2. Pair them with people their age
It’s no secret that people like to be around people they have things in common with - and that includes stages of life. Young professionals want to be around other young professionals, or at the very least, they don’t want to be the only young professional in the room. That said, if possible, try creating volunteer opportunities where young professionals will be together. For example, a young professionals committee. Now this goes without saying, but don’t discriminate here. Anyone who wants to volunteer should be able to volunteer (regardless of age). But if you’re able to put some of those younger people together, you might appeal to a larger crowd.
3. Make it a social experience
As you know, Millennials and Gen Z-ers love technology. They love social media sites (particularly Snapchat and Instagram) and love to be connected at all times. To make your volunteer opportunities more appealing (and to keep your volunteers engaged once they’re on site), consider making those events more social. Will your volunteers get to “check in” at a cool location? For example, on the Hill in D.C.? Will they get a first look at some of your conference swag or giveaways (that they can then tease online)? Think about these things and use them to your advantage.
If other young professionals see these posts on social media, they’ll be a little more tempted to get in on the action. (FOMO!)
4. Offer micro-volunteer opportunities
If you want to recruit more young volunteers, offering micro-volunteer opportunities is KEY. Seriously, if you only do one of these things, let it be this. Young professionals have a lot going on. They’re multi-taskers and they like it that way. That said, they don’t want to commit to a long-term volunteer opportunity because they don’t know where they’re going to be (or what they’re going to be interested in) in 10 - 12 months. But if you offer small volunteer opportunities - checking people in at registration at your next event, writing one-off articles for your newsletter and/or blog, etc. - people will be far less intimidated and more likely to step up.
For more about micro-volunteering - what it is, why you should offer it, what types of opportunities you should offer, etc. - check out our post, Micro-Volunteering: Popular Questions (And Answers!).
5. Tap into their skill set
Going back to the topic of time, young professionals have a lot they could be doing with their spare time - hanging out with friends, relaxing at home, going to the gym, etc. And as an association professional, you’re tasked with the challenge of getting them to choose your association versus something else. You have to get them to give up some of that time.
So how do you do it? Make it enjoyable! Tap into their hobbies and skill sets if you can. When a member first joins, send them a survey asking what their interests and hobbies include. Then later on down the road when a volunteer opportunity comes about that lines up with one of their interests, reach out to them. Say, “Hi John, I know you’re interested in photography and we’re looking for someone to take pictures at our next event. Would you be interested in that particular position?” What do you think is more effective: A personalized email like that or a blanket email simply asking for volunteers? (Yup, the former, by far.)
If volunteering is a big issue at your association, it might be time to switch up your strategy. For a few best practices regarding volunteer recruitment, onboarding, and retention, check out our Ultimate Guide to Volunteer Management!