Check you mindset on Millennials who volunteer

Young people these days get a bad wrap. Phrases like entitledshort attention spanself-absorbed, etc quickly come to mind. During recent research we completed for Volunteer Canada, some interviewees even suggested that “young people aren’t volunteering anymore”.

Self-fulfilling prophecy behaviour dictates that if we expect a certain type of behaviour, we will find it. We give more weight to experiences that confirm our expectations, and dismiss those that don’t fit with what we come to believe.

So instead of thinking:

  • Young people don’t volunteer anymore.
  • Millennials are entitled.
  • Youth only volunteer to get experience on their resume.
  • Millennials are all about social media.
  • Young people don’t follow through with volunteer commitments because we don’t pay them.

(Not all of these are bad, and the first isn’t even true, but they can lead to poor or limited volunteer engagement strategies.)

Instead, look for behaviour that confirms:

  • Young people love feeling connected to the big picture/the cause.
  • Millennials are storytellers and evangelists for organizations that provide great experiences.
  • Youth are looking for growth and development opportunities.
  • Young people appreciate career opportunities that volunteering can provide.

The next time you hear someone at your organization bemoan Millennials, offer an anecdote that challenges their assumptions. If you don’t have any stories of your own yet to offer, create them by testing the “new” assumptions provided above. Give yourself and your young volunteers more than one opportunity to prove you wrong.