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How Your Nonprofit Can Enable Skill-Based Volunteering Among Millennials

millennials-help-nonprofits-1Nearly three-quarters of Gen Y-ers recently surveyed for The Millennial Impact Report said they volunteered for a nonprofit in 2012. The main reason these youngsters helped out? They care about the issue the organization was trying to solve.

There are plenty of other reasons Millennials get involved as well, according to the survey. They feel they could make an impact for a cause they care about. They want to connect and network with like-minded people. They want to utilize professional skills or expertise to benefit an organization. Their family or friends recommended the volunteer opportunity.

While the chance to get a free T-shirt or other prize made the list of reasons too, Millennials showed that what they really want out of the experience is not merchandise, but intangible experience. One respondent said she volunteered due to the stress levels of tiny nonprofit staffs. "I like doing even the most mundane tasks if I know it has freed up time or reduced stress," she noted.

This really draws upon the shift from place-based volunteering to skill-based volunteering -- something a lot of organizations and companies are incorporating into their culture more and more. This shift is more commonly referred to as Volunteerism 2.0.

Place-Based vs. Skill-Based Volunteering

Place-based volunteering is what most nonprofits offer as a way to get involved -- whether it's volunteering at a local soup kitchen, helping build a Habitat house, or delivering gifts to children's hospitals during the holidays. Whatever it is, it is a feel-good attempt to satisfy an individual's duty to do something for someone else.

And by all means, it is still an amazing way to include individuals who are not able to give financially in your organization’s work. However, there is a new type of volunteering on the rise that could benefit your staff, mission, and organizational efficiency -- and the best part is that younger generations are more than willing to contribute their time and skills to help your cause.

Skill-based volunteering is the idea that individuals want to volunteer their time and use their professional skills, which may include everything from marketing, to developing a mobile app, to writing, to even leadership skills -- all of which are brought to the table to help your nonprofit.

While Millennials (those between 20 and 35 years old) are very willing to volunteer their time and knowledge to help your organization succeed internally, those under 20 years old are also more than willing to volunteer to gain more experience and build their professional skills.

So, while you may not be actively soliciting these groups for donations because they most likely don’t have funds to donate, they are the perfect candidates for skill-based volunteering. There are also a lot of companies and other organizations that are connecting nonprofits to these skill-based volunteers.

Catchafire.org is a fantastic organization doing just this. They offer a variety of different services that are completed by professional volunteers, including: accounting and finance, design, fundraising, human resources, leadership and culture, marketing, PR and communications, social media, higher level strategy, and technology support.

Any organization can start a project in any of these areas and work with a volunteer who is qualified to get the job done. It’s a great way to get the talent you need from people who are actually passionate enough to donate their time to your organization.

How to Get Millennials to Continue Giving

Now that you know all about skill-based volunteerism (a.k.a Volunteerism 2.0), it could be in your organization's best interest to seek out those willing to contribute their varied areas of expertise -- along with their valued time -- to you and your cause.

Here are four areas to remember to focus on when recruiting Millennials (and anyone else willing to assist you).

1) Develop Continuum of Support

Show your volunteers how they are specifically helping your mission, and be sure to thank them for their work and time on a consistent basis. Happy volunteers will likely want to do so again and again.

2) Train Anywhere, Serve Everywhere

Use technology to expand your training resources to volunteers outside of your local network. This can allow individuals interested in aiding your cause to be able to help your organization from all over the globe.

3) Develop Opportunities for Professional Skills

When individuals become more invested in an organization, they are more likely to make a financial contribution and even elect to join the organization’s staff or leadership. Providing opportunities for volunteers to help organizational projects is a great way to get them in the door. Don’t forget about this younger generation’s skills and willingness to get involved.

4) Don’t Focus on Material Incentives

As stated before, Millennials care much more about gaining professional experience and advancing their skills then receiving free swag from your organization. They want to be able to be able to grow their network and at the same time make an impact. Focus on the bigger, intangible benefits of skill-based volunteer than just offer some free stuff as a reward.

Have you incorporated skill-based volunteering into your organization framework? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Image credit: Mingo Haven

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