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Christina
20 Jan 2020 | 7 min read

Generation Z and Volunteering

With all the talk of volunteering trends in this new decade, Volunteer Managers are turning their attention to the latest members to join their teams. Yep, we’re talking about the elusive Generation Z. 

Generation Z are those born between 1995 and 2015. They are the largest, most diverse generation in history. They value freedom and stability. And they are known for being the first generation to grow up using mobile devices. The average Gen Zer received their first cell phone at age 10.3, and many were playing on their parent’s phones and tablets as toddlers. 

These tech-forward individuals may be young, but they have some pretty powerful voices. They will be an undeniable force in the upcoming years. 

The trouble will be engaging them. 

According to Generation Z expert, Dr. Aaron Brown, this may not be the year for social justice change by teens and young adults. “Typically, volunteerism is a married-adult-with-children activity as well as the religiously observant. Millennials delayed marriage, and Gen Z will likely delay marriage, too. Plus the decline in Gen Z religious observation may play a part in lower volunteer levels.” 

But don’t count out this group yet. 

There are plenty of ways to connect with this elusive cohort. You just need to know how to talk their language. 

Here are four ways to reach Generation Z. 

VIDEO IS KING

More than any previous generation, this group is video-driven. Generation Zers spend some serious time watching videos. According to a 2018 study by Pew Research, 85% of teens use YouTube. 

This isn’t just a passing phase. Video is expected to account for 82% of internet traffic in 2022, according to this white paper by CISCO

If you want to reach Generation Z, you’d better get comfortable being in front of the camera. 

Imagine the countless opportunities for Volunteer Managers to recruit potential team members using this robust media. The possibilities are endless. 

Think outside of the box. Traditional marketing and calls to action won’t cut it with a generation that has become naturalized to the constant bombardment of ads. Gen Z appreciates edgy and new ways of storytelling. Get creative. 

Are you a nonprofit bringing clean water to remote villages? Create a short how-to video on how to filter water in the desert. Do you work at a hospital? How about a silly video of staff members singing the latest Justin Bieber hit while they move through the facility? Come up with fun, short (the average Gen Zer’s attention span is 8 seconds), and engaging videos, and you will win a dedicated audience. 

DO MORE THAN CONNECT

Despite being one of the most connected generations ever, Generation Z tends to experience some of the highest levels of loneliness. Social media has taught them to connect, but it never takes that connection a step further. What they are left with is a very shallow, surface-level view of relationships. 

Gen Zers crave authentic connection

It’s not enough to “friend”, “like”, “comment”, or “heart”. We have to take the relationship deeper. We have to offer substantial friendship. The type of friendship that randomly checks in, that encourages them to be themselves and gives them a chance to be heard. 

Placing Gen Z in an accepting atmosphere that promotes building friendships is critical. According to Dr. Brown, “Volunteerism with Gen Z is highest when it is connected to a local church.” One of the reasons being, creating strong, authentic friendships in safe spaces will be the key to drawing Gen Z into volunteering. 

CUSTOMIZE THEIR EXPERIENCE

Generation Z is a discerning group, and they have an uncanny ability to recognize fake efforts. Translation: they value real. 

In addition to needing an organization to be upfront with them, what they want are personalized experiences. Curate the volunteer process specifically for them, and you will hook them. 

A customized volunteer experience starts with their first interaction with the brand. A simple mobile encounter is critical. Examine your website from a Gen Zer’s view. Does it look good on a mobile phone? Is it easy to navigate? Is there a simple call to action above the fold (the top third of the page)? Are you communicating your organization’s culture, vision, and values right away? 

What about once they start volunteering? Does the organization connect them with others quickly? Do they feel like they belong? Are they give positions that fit their unique skills, interests, and personality? Do they feel adequately trained and ready for their role? 

Do your homework.

Ask your coworker’s kids and their friends what they think of your website and volunteer process. They will give you their honest opinion and might give you some valuable insights into how to update your volunteer experience. 

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN

One of the most endearing traits of Gen Z is that they are value-driven.  

Research shows that 61% would like to own their own business, and 60% want to change the world positively. 

These are some of the most passionate, future-focused, community-driven individuals. They are natural entrepreneurs, digital natives, and are most concerned with developing their people skills

Give them something to believe in by sharing your vision. Show them visual examples of how you work every day to make the world a better place. Offer them the chance to grow in positions that teach them new skills. 

This generation is just itching to create positive change. They just need an outlet. Connect Gen Z with your vision and invite them to help you change the world. 


Ready to give Generation Z the tools they need to feel confident serving? The Volunteer U LAUNCH kit will help you build an intentional strategy to IDENTIFY, RECRUIT, TRAIN, ENCOURAGE, and RESOURCE your dream volunteer team. Get your LAUNCH kit today and take the guesswork out of volunteer management.  

Here at Volunteer U, we’re passionate about helping volunteer teams thrive. Your organization is doing important work. You deserve to have an incredible crew behind you to get the job done. Christina has a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with a focus in Global Consulting. Email the author christina@volunteeru.org.