High-impact, short-term volunteer roles for Millennials

A few of the various hats that I wear involve working with young volunteers. One question I ask when interviewing an individual for a particular role is:

“What triggered you to email me about this volunteer role?”

While “contribution to a cause I care about” is usually high on the list, the reality that many of them share is that they loved how the roles were short-term, had a specific end-date, had clear outcomes and objectives, and would have a large and direct impact on the success of the organization and its mission. Even more specifically, some younger volunteers shared how the commitment fit perfectly with their schedule – a month off before law school started up again, a flexible schedule leading up to giving birth, etc.

One of the messages I take away from these conversations is people are willing to contribute their time if it’s worth it.

These short-term, high-impact roles can take a few different shapes:

  • research
  • task-force (designed to give advice on a specific area)
  • committee
  • project (with a goal to produce a specific output)

Some of the favourite work I’ve done involved setting up a group of young volunteers with clear objectives, helping out with clarifying process (eg. timeline, communication preferences), divvying up roles/responsibilities (including one person who is responsible for driving the timeline) and just sitting back and only stepping in to support when necessary. My role becomes less day-to-day volunteer management and more volunteer engagement strategy.