Why You Should Recruit Millennials to Boost Your NPO

Last week, we wrote about how to recruit life-time volunteers for your nonprofit instead of relying on one-time helpers. Today, we are going to dive further into the topic and focus on one group that has the potential to provide you with life-long volunteers: Millennials.

Millennials, often categorized as people born in the early 1980s to around 2000, grew up with a computer in their home and a smartphone in their pocket.

(Full disclosure: I am a millennial!)

They generally operate a bit differently than other generations both in their lifestyle and in how they choose to spend their time. While you should be open to recruiting all volunteers, no matter their age, recruiting millennials can add new life to your organization and help provide a new energy to your projects and mission. Plus, the younger generation is here to stay with your organization through the years (if done correctly). Here are some reasons your nonprofit could benefit from specifically targeting millennials.

1. Millennials are Focused on Causes

More so than older generations, millennials are more likely to get involved with a nonprofit than they are to make a donation. And they don’t want to volunteer just to pass the time (but then again, who does?). They want to know how their time will make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

When recruiting, keep your message cause-focused. How many families will be helped by spending an hour sorting through items in a food pantry? What impact will they have by spending an hour mentoring an elementary student?

Millennials want to know the direct results of their volunteering and witness that instant satisfaction. Asking millennials to donate isn’t a doomed venture, but they are more likely to be willing to give of their time than their cash… at least at first.

By volunteering, they can see the immediate results of their work. When they donate, the money goes off and is used by the nonprofit. While it will probably be part of great projects and make a difference, they want to know that they are directly making this world a better place.

*Bonus points if your organization can keep them informed to tell them where their donations are specifically going.

2. Narrow Your Target Market Even More

Again, all volunteers are valuable, but if you segment millennials even further, targeting the youngest and oldest parts of the segment can pay off in greater numbers. (It’s the bread of the millennial sandwich, if you will.)

The oldest group of millennials are the young professionals just establishing themselves in the real world. Most are looking for a way to give purpose and meaning to their lives outside their work universe. If you target the fresh-faced college graduates, you can help fill a void in their life that was previously occupied by part-time jobs, extra-curricular clubs, activities or studying. Now as part of the adult world, many are looking for a way to give back to the community.

On the other end, the youngest millennials are still discovering who they are and helping nonprofits by connecting with causes and organizations that can help define their identity. They might not even realize what they are looking to get out of life or even that they are looking. By reaching out the to the youngest millennials, you can have double impact by having them help fulfill your mission while also shaping their outlook and setting up a lifetime of volunteering.

3. Longer Relationships with Volunteers

This point is fairly straight forward. If you recruit younger volunteers to help, common sense says they will have a longer relationship with your nonprofit. The goal should be to get volunteers when they are young and have them keep coming back for more positive experiences. Inevitably, they will grow older, their financial situation will become more stable and you will also be able to add them to your donor pool.

Those reasons explain why recruiting millennials is a great idea, but how do you go about engaging these eager, young helpers?

The Millennial Impact’s 2013 report identifies three opportunities to recruit more millennials: support activism, participate in young nonprofit professional groups and provide ongoing leadership.

  • Support Activism – This first point goes back to our first point above. They believe in causes and want to support activism. Millennials are still looking for their passion in life and often that can come through activism and helping nonprofits.
  • Participate in Young Nonprofit Professional Groups – Millennials aren’t just there to help for the giving back. They are also there to develop themselves personally and professionally. On the professional side, they get to meet other people in their community whom they might not interact with otherwise. Meeting people and forming new relationships is exciting and your nonprofit can provide that opportunity for millennials to make new friends and increase the size of their network.
  • Provide Ongoing Leadership – On the other side of the personal growth, leadership development is more skill-based, but can also help a millennial with their professional lives. Working with nonprofits gives millennials opportunities to learn new skills and further develop ones they already possess.

The one area that isn’t covered in the Millennial Impact’s report we would like to add is branding, which is also vital to catch on and stick with millennials. Many love not only being involved with nonprofits, but also advertising to the world that they are involved. Whether it is shirts, mugs, bumper stickers or other swag, millenials like to show who they are and what they support to everyone. Provide volunteers with branded physical goods that not only lets millennials be proud but also can just as easily recruit new people that can help out.


Millennials can be a vital part of your nonprofit’s mission and operations. By targeting and engaging them you can help build your volunteer base for years to come and inject energy and new life into your organization.


Lincoln Arneal

Lincoln Arneal was a Senior Editor at Nonprofit Hub who brought loads of real-world nonprofit experience to the team. He was the past executive director of a nonprofit that provided leadership development to junior high and high school students. He looked to bring the insights from his time forming, developing, and running a nonprofit to help others in their quest to do good. Lincoln also had a legal background and had written for various newspapers (covering high school sports) for the past 15 years. He could be followed on Twitter at @NPLNK.

June 12, 2014

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