Working + Volunteering?

January 26, 2012

Although my volunteering at the nature center is about to begin (!!), this month I’m taking a break from discussing my trials and triumphs and am instead sharing the challenges a friend of mine has experienced during her adventures in (not) volunteering.

Her biggest obstacle is finding an opportunity that works with her schedule.  An AmeriCorps volunteer, her schedule is somewhat unpredictable and she often has to work into the evening, making it extremely difficult to commit to a consistent volunteer opportunity.  After having difficulty finding evening options she began searching for one-time opportunities, and ran into similar scheduling problems.  On top of availability issues she also ran into application struggles in the form of confusing and illegible forms.

Despite these struggles she is still on the hunt for a satisfying volunteer opportunity, over and above her AmeriCorps service.  I know a number of National Service volunteers that are looking for additional service opportunities, and it’s extremely unfortunate that these dedicated volunteers have such difficulty finding options that work with their schedules.  Not only that, but these individuals are generally looking for something to contrast their already full-time service positions, and finding opportunities outside of a certain sector can provide additional challenges.  On top of THAT, a number of National Service members are volunteer managers themselves, and don’t want to commit to something they know won’t hold their interest or won’t agree with their schedules.  These struggles – busy schedules, the need for something different than their day jobs, and the desire to find something to which they can confidently commit – apply to many working adults.

Another of my fellow AmeriCorps volunteers is interested in orchestrating a volunteer fair for busy, working adults to attempt to help solve this problem, but I’m not sure what can be done if there are already limited opportunities.  Should organizations attempt to coordinate events so there are more options for working professionals?  Or perhaps there are plenty of organizations that are open at less conventional times but haven’t considered using volunteers during those times?  Expanding volunteer opportunities will result in a diversified volunteer force, which has numerous positive benefits, but creating and supporting those variegated opportunities requires change and commitment not all organizations are willing or able to make.

-Submitted by Kelsey Dambrovski, Neighborhood Resource Coordinator, Minnesota Children’s Museum


“Re-Vision”: Keeping Your Volunteer Handbook Fresh & Up-To-Date

January 17, 2012

As a former English major, I am the unique individual who actually enjoys the editing process.  Editing volunteer handbooks, however, can be a daunting experience.  Our department is currently making “beginning-of-the-year” revisions to our handbook, making sure that every policy is as up-to-date and clearly-stated as possible.  Here are several of the overarching themes in our volunteer handbook revision process:

  1. Social Media/Internet Presence

Our department has drastically increased our online presence (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) over the past couple of years.   With the number of volunteers that we have, we’ve also found it much easier to communicate with volunteers through e-mail, Facebook, and blogging (rather than previously-used methods such as phone calls or newsletters).  As such, we wanted to be upfront with volunteers about these changes by adding a paragraph to our handbook, as follows:

Volunteer Communications:  Our primary mode of communication with volunteers is via e-mail.  All volunteers are invited to visit our blog, the “Red Vest Review” (,  for ongoing updates from our department.  We frequently feature volunteer profiles, advertise special events, and keep volunteers informed of helpful tips or policy reminders.  You can also become our “fan” on Facebook by searching for Children’s of Minnesota Volunteer Services.

In the words of the infamous Spider-Man, we also wanted to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility.  While we hope that volunteers will follow our departmental Facebook page and other tools, we wanted to be clear on what the guidelines were for engaging with patients and/or families in this way.  As such, we added the following policy:

Social Media:   Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Caring Bridge and LinkedIn, among others, may not be used to maintain contact with patients and families outside of your volunteer shifts.  As a volunteer, your relationship with a patient or family should remain limited to your volunteer work:  this means no e-mailing, “friending” on Facebook, or following on Caring Bridge.  If you are invited to do any of these things by a patient or family member, please state that the hospital’s confidentiality policies do not allow you to do so.  If a patient or family wants to share something with you (i.e., photos of your time with their child), please ask them to e-mail so that no personal contact information is exchanged. 

2.      Acknowledging the Rise of “Skill-Based” Volunteerism

We are fortunate at Children’s to have a wide variety of talented individuals seeking to donate their time.  Our handbook previously contained a brief rundown of the areas in which volunteers can serve, but we wanted new applicants to know that we welcome inquiries from those with a variety of professional careers, experiences, and special skills.  The following statement is new:

We are proud to offer a variety of opportunities to learn and gain skills, as well as share your own expertise. 

3.       Tightening Up Our Policies Regarding Job/School References

We have many student and adult learners in our volunteer program, and one of my job’s greatest rewards is watching them go on to exciting careers or graduate studies.  However, our department wants to feel confident in the references and recommendations that we submit.  As such, we added the following statement:

We ask that you complete 40 hours of volunteer service, in good standing, before asking for a reference.

These are just a few of the revisions that we made to our handbook to start the new year off right!  I hope that these are helpful to those of you undergoing similar revision processes.

-Submitted by Jenna Barke, Volunteer Coordinator, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota

The Millennials

January 10, 2012

Generation Y. Millennials. Echo Boomers.  The Boomerang Generation.

These names are used to describe the generation of young adults born between 1982 to the mid-1990s. They range in ages from about 18-29. They face high unemployment rates (37 percent are unemployed or out of the workforce) and because many graduated college during a recession, they will face the poor economic consequences of this on their salaries and careers for up to 15 years. Yet Millennials are extremely optimistic and are volunteering in record numbers.

As a millennial myself, I was curious to take a more in-depth look at this generation and how it impacts the field of volunteerism.

A Few Fun ( Possibly Superfluous) Facts

  • 2010 Pew Research describes millennials as “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change.”
  • 3/4 of millennials have profiles on a social network, while 1/5 have uploaded a video of themselves to the internet
  • Almost 4/10 have a tattoo and 1/4 have something other than their ears pierced
  • 37% of 18-29 year olds are unemployed or out of the workforce (This takes into account those going to school who are not employed; the December unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds was 14.4%, compared to the national average of 8.5%)
  • 2/3 claim that “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people, but are less skeptical of government than previous generations
  • 6/10 millennials were raised by both parents, the lowest rate of any generation so far
  • 1/5 are married (Boomers’ marriage rates were twice that)
  • 1/3 are parents
  • Millennials are gearing up to be the most educated generation; 39.6% of those 18-24 were enrolled in college
  • 1/8 of those over 22 are living with their parents again (hence the term “boomerang generation”)
  • Only 2% are military veterans
  • They are the most likely generation to identify as liberal, are not as supportive of a strong national security policy, and back more progressive social policies
  • As a generation truly defined by their use of technology, 83% sleep with their cellphones

Delaying Adulthood

Sociologically speaking, millennials are delaying the traditional markers of adulthood, like completing school (more return to graduate studies), leaving home (we are the ‘boomerang generation’), becoming financially independent (more are taking national service positions), marrying (the average age for marriage is 26 for women and 28 for men, five years later than the Boomers), or having children. The name “Failure to Launch” generation came from this postponement of adulthood. If you somehow missed the intriguing article, “What is it about 20-somethings” written by Robin Marantz Henig in the New York Times in August of 2010, I would suggest a read. It debates the merits of putting off adulthood and whether this prolonged adolescence should be categorized as a new life state, “emerging adulthood.” But the reality is, that many 20-somethings are prolonging the journey to adulthood (by traditional markers).  And it has real consequences for their participation in volunteerism.


Millennials are volunteering in record-breaking numbers. According to the National Conference on Citizenship, “Millennials are showing strong interest in civic participation and reversing some of the declines observed among youth since the 1970s.” We are more civically engaged than both Gen X and the Boomers were at our age, at least when it comes to volunteering. Millennials are less likely to vote and participate in groups, church, or meetings.

Millennials may be more involved in service because of the proliferation of opportunities available to them. Many high schools and colleges require service hours and offer many opportunities to get involved. This is one of the reasons 18-23 year olds are more involved than the older half of their generation: they have access to more civic engagement opportunities.

There has been an increase in recruitment numbers for the PeaceCorps, AmeriCorps, and, recently, military service (though overall numbers for military service are down from previous generations). In fact, AmeriCorps applicants have tripled in the past two years, according to Gayle Baker of Due to financial times, and a desire to prolong adulthood, many choose national or international service as a way to purposefully spend a year or two while waiting for more job opportunities to become available.

Millennials volunteering numbers have been rising steadily, according to The majority of Millennials gave their time to educational and youth service institutions in 2010.


Millennials are characterized by their optimism, or as others may call it naivete. Millennials are optimistic about their economic futures, despite the fact that most of them are unhappy with our current salaries. 90% believe that they will eventually live a good (financially secure) life.

Millennials are continuing to follow their parents’ upbeat advice, “Follow your dreams.” Right now, that just means volunteering to find a job and remaining obstinately optimistic that our economic prospects will change.

Are you a millennial? Why do you volunteer? 

How do you engage millennial volunteers in your organization? What are the unique challenges or benefits that you see when trying to engage this generation? How can you capitalize on their optimism?

All facts, data, and information used in the article came from:

Pew Research Center (

National Conference on Citizenship


Generation Y or Millenials” by Gayle Baker, Marketing Director at

Kat Southard (; 651.255.00556)

Member Outreach Coordinator

AmeriCorps*VISTA (trying to put off adulthood!)

Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration