How to address “I don’t know how” as a reason for not volunteering

According to the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, and for reasons that many people in the nonprofit sector are dumbfounded by, a major reason why young people don’t volunteer is that they don’t know how.

For some Millennials, this may mean that they don’t know how to get started, or where to look, or how to apply for roles. For others, this may mean that the tasks involved in volunteering are mysterious.

Whether as nonprofit professionals we understand this or not – the reason exists, and we need to address it.

Organizations need to create very easy and straightforward entry points to volunteering. Here are some examples of what can be done to bring Millennial volunteers into the fold.

  • Hold a regular, monthly “get to know us” night where people can drop in, meet others interested in the cause, learn a bit about the organization (or even learn a new skill/theory related to the cause), and meet people that would be engaging them as volunteers.
  • Offer group volunteering, through already existing groups that young people are involved with (e.g. PACs or childcare facilities for Millennials with children,meetups, university clubs and residences, workplaces).
  • Offer drop in volunteer roles – activities that can engage new volunteers, but aren’t reliant on them (e.g. invasive plant weeding, translation-a-thons). If your organization doesn’t have a readily apparent drop-in role, partner with organizations that do.
  • Pare down volunteer roles applications. Don’t require volunteers to fill out ominous forms as a part of the application process. Screen for the basics and get the rest later.