Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.

Millennials and Volunteering: Bridging The Generation Gap By Gary Bagley

Every day my LinkedIn feed and various business magazines are filled with articles about Millennials. Generally, the writer advises the reader on how to “manage” this group in the workplace and often seems to have a “these kids nowadays” tone.

Through my work at New York Cares (with staff members and volunteers), I have also been exposed firsthand to Millennial’s great passion for community service.  In its report on an Associated Press-GfK poll on December 29 the New York Times gave me data to support my optimism (which is a rare but welcome occurrence). The poll found an increase in young Americans who say that “citizens have a ‘very important obligation’ to volunteer.” What is also striking is that according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 20% of adults under 30 volunteered in 2013, up from 14% in 1989.

Millennials do flood through our doors – 51.3% of our volunteers are under the age of 30 (another 21.0% are between 30 and 34). And, over 12,000 new volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 come through our doors each year to start giving back in NYC. 

I am encouraged by the survey results, but at New York Cares we have enjoyed an influx of young New Yorkers for years. This leads me to believe that this may be more a reflection of a life stage than characteristics of any single generation. In 1987, our founders were representative of this age group -- “Twenty Somethings” who had trouble volunteering because of busy work schedules and lack of easy access to high impact, well-managed volunteer experiences. 

So, what do we do to keep up with the times and the needs of Millennials? The service delivery model we created 27 years ago still engages young New Yorkers today. We deliver programs that are run by professional staff and managed onsite by trained volunteer team leaders so that volunteers can trust that their service will be as impactful as possible (and don’t have to spend months finding opportunities). If it ain’t broke …

We have evolved our use of technology dramatically over the past five years. If you are reading this on your phone or tablet, you know that our web site is mobile responsive (it resizes automatically to the device you are using). Millennials spend more time on phones and tablets than any generation before them (and fewer people own desktop computers).  We need to meet them and all volunteers where they are. We also deliver an increasing amount of news through Facebook, Twitter, and our blogs. I hope you will enjoy the conversations happening there if you have not already.

On January 5th, we celebrated a new record. Volunteers signing up for projects hit an all-time one-day high: 722 sign ups through our website. And, no surprise, 47.1% of the volunteers signing up are under 30. More people are engaging, and even more Millennials will likely be looking for opportunities.

In the face of increased demand, New York Cares is committed to maintaining our standards for high quality programs and making them as easy for all New Yorkers to access as possible. And, that means growing our ability to run more programs (even more than the 1,600 projects we run on average every month already!). 

Gary Bagley is the Executive Director of New York Cares.

Have comments, questions, or just want to be in the loop? Tweet him at @GBagley_NYCares

Erica Plofsky's picture