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


Adventures in (Almost) Volunteering

December 19, 2011

It has been about a month and a half since my last post, and I am very nearly volunteering somewhere!  Sort of.

Following the near success that turned into an unreturned email, I again spent a fair amount of time on a volunteer application for a nature center near my home.  The application called for three references, something I had not expected but something we do at my organization, and made sense for volunteers interacting with the public and specifically with children.  It also indicated a potentially well-organized system, which was sort of refreshing.  However, after seeing the number of references needed, I felt momentary panic – what was I getting myself into?!  Something that required THREE references and SEVERAL short answers to even apply must be a HUGE commitment!  But I forged ahead, determined this time to actually communicate with someone at the very least.

I filled out the application, stating that I’d be interested in agricultural opportunities and potentially acting as a naturalist, and submitted it.  I received a response the very next day!  The response email asked to clarify some of my experience and informed me of possible special events volunteer opportunities.  If you recall, I did not apply for special events opportunities.  And while I realize of course that it was practically winter, I thought there may be greenhouse or winter naturalist positions available for the season, and was hoping to at least hear about some opportunities.  I responded to the email restating my interests and giving more detail on my experiences, hoping that more information and a clear interest on my end would be to my benefit.  After sending this email, I received no response!

For five days that is, until I emailed again to check in about possible opportunities.  After sending my check-in email I received a response just a few hours later asking if I would be able to come in to have an informal interview, talk about my interests and experiences, and learn about the opportunities available.  After this meeting my information would be distributed to the appropriate staff members and I would hopefully have some sort of position.

The meeting went quite well – I felt as though the woman I met with was interested in using my skills and experiences as well as finding a place the organization could use me effectively.  She even confessed her not-always-prompt email correspondence!  It was very refreshing to speak with an actual human instead of a listserv, and I forgave the few miscommunications we had previously.

During the meeting we discussed how opportunities would pick up after the first of the year, which was fine with me given how busy I was feeling at the time.  I was anticipating checking in early January and was pleasantly surprised to receive an email update at the beginning of this month detailing how my information had been passed along and staff from two departments would be contacting me.  Then later that day one of them actually did!  I was quite pleased with how things were going, and wasn’t even phased when I sent off a quick reminder email to the other staff member to check in (which I got a response to within hours).

All things considered, this attempt was a success, and my more forgiving attitude towards communication definitely helped.  However, when it came to naturalist training, all of the opportunities were during the work week.  As someone who works on the weekend to be available to volunteers, I was a little disappointed that training wasn’t on a Saturday morning, for example.  Different from my program however, there were individual trainings for each naturalist class, which were scheduled before or after actual classes so new naturalists could observe the classes.  After explaining that I couldn’t attend any of the trainings save for one in late winter, the lead educator offered to look at the schedule with me to see which classes I could observe on days I was available so I would be able to begin teaching as early as possible.

My experience with this non-profit has been infinitely better than those I’ve had with the others I’ve mentioned, and that seems to be due to several factors.  I was definitely more persistent about my skills and experiences and how I’d like to use them, which proved successful, and had a more personal interest in the organization.  After making a strong connection, the individuals at the organization were really what drove the rest of the process.  Their genuine interest and continued contact made me feel as though they actually wanted me to volunteer, something I certainly didn’t feel from the other organizations.  The previous organizations had information for potential volunteers, but didn’t seem to actively court them.  I’d like to believe they were interested in cultivating volunteers, but the manner in which our interactions were handled made it seem as though they felt they didn’t need to put forth effort to garner new volunteers, but that volunteers would naturally be drawn to them and would be happy with wherever they were placed.

The more personal approach of this most recent organization seems to be less prevalent in the broader world of volunteer management.  Even large organizations can cultivate this kind of relationship if they focus their energy on utilizing the skills and interests of their volunteers.  Of course, this is only possible if those skills and interests can be used at the organization.  The balance of organization need and volunteer interest is essential – I would not have been completely happy had I accepted the offer of special events volunteer, and so I continued to investigate the opportunities.  It’s logical for organizations to offer what they have available, but consideration of the volunteers abilities should obviously be taken into account.  Having skilled AND satisfied volunteers will result in a more productive, successful organization.

Kelsea Dombrovski

Neighborhood Resource Coordinator

Minnesota Children’s Museum

High Skilled Volunteers: Transition into Retirement

October 14, 2011

Many individuals who have been with a company for a long time are being encouraged to find volunteer work as part of a transition between their paid work with the company and retirement. Some companies are able to pay their employee while they are in transition. Many of these individuals are looking for high-skilled volunteer positions, where they can put their knowledge and skills to work. If your organization is ready to work with individuals with a high degree of skills, and you are lucky enough to have one of these knowledgeable individuals to work at your organization, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Michael Shay was one of these individuals. Michael was employed with General Mills for 18 year as a Senior Research Chemist and was responsible for the information systems. He interfaced with the IT staff to develop solutions that analyzed data. In January 2008, Michael was looking for an organization that he could put his skills to use.  Michael found Hammer, an organization that supports adults and children with developmental disabilities.  Why Hammer? Michael replied, “Everyone was so friendly and full of passion. It wasn’t just a job; it was about people’s lives.” Michael started working with Hammer’s IT department and developed training manuals, started building some applications for Hammer’s intranet, and start learning more about database management and virtualization. During that time, Michael also assisted MAVA’s Marketing & Technology Committee with their move to a new website and database management system. Michael volunteered with Hammer for 5 months and in June 2008, he was hired as a full-time staff in the IT dept. While hiring Michael was not anticipated when he started working with Hammer, hiring him was a natural choice when an opening became available.  Michael has since taken over the database management and also troubleshoots. He enjoys working at Hammer and states, “I have learned so much. There is a lot of looking towards the future, which is impressive in a non-profit organization.”

Many volunteers are looking for high-skilled positions. Some are no longer interested in the office work and want to offer more to organizations that are willing to put their skills to good use. Organizations can look at what is needed in their organization but more importantly, can look to the volunteer and find out about their passions, skills, and interests – and see how you can make it work within your organizations.  Non-profits organizations that put high-skilled volunteers to work doing what they are passionate about can make it a win-win situation for both parties.


Katie Bottiger

Director of Volunteer Resources


Volunteering in Minnesota

September 6, 2011

Recently, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released their report on volunteerism in the United States.

Yet again, Minnesota ranked 3rd in the nation for rate of volunteerism, while for the fifth year running, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area ranked number one among large cities. In 2010, 1.6 million Minnesotans volunteered over 189 million hours of service. With these great, and increasingly impressive statistics, that reflect Minnesotans willingness to volunteer there time, the question arises, why Minnesota?

Are Minnesotans just more altruistic? Is the “Minnesota Nice” stereotype true? Or is there something else affecting our outstanding volunteer rates? Mary Quirk, Interim Executive Director of MAVA, told MinnPost that “we have a good structure for volunteerism here,” noting Minnesotans remarkably high educational attainment and relatively low commute times(click here to read the article!).

CNCS offers an in-depth picture of why the volunteerism rate in Minnesota is so high. They highlight seven characteristics of Minnesota that encourage volunteerism:

  1. Where foreclosures are higher, rates of volunteerism tend to be lower.

Minnesota’s most recent foreclosure rate was 1 out of every 960 homes that was foreclosed on. The national average is currently 1/611. (

  1. Volunteerism rates are likely to be higher in communities where there are more nonprofits per capita.

The national average is 4.55 nonprofits per 1,000 residents in a community.Minnesota averages 5.72 nonprofits per 1,000 residents. As Mary mentioned Minnesota’s structure for volunteerism is well established and there are many opportunities and places to volunteer.  (

  1. As rates of home ownership increase, rates of volunteerism tend to increase. Conversely, a high percentage multiunit housing tends to correspond with a lower volunteer rate.

With this measure CNCS attempts to measure an individual’s “commitment and attachment to their community.” The national home ownership rate for 2010 was 68.9 percent, while the state rate for Minnesotawas much higher at 74.9 percent. Along the same lines, the percentage of multiunit housing nationally was 32.7 percent in 2010, while in Minnesota it was only 21.2 percent. ( and

  1. As rates of higher education rise, the rates of volunteerism also tend to rise.

Nationally, 85.3 percent have received their high school diploma or GED equivalent, while 27.9 percent have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. In Minnesota, however, 91.1 percent have received their high school diploma or GED equivalent, while 31.2 percent have received their bachelor’s degree or higher. ( and

  1. High poverty rates are associated with lower rates of volunteerism.

The national poverty rate in 2010 was 14.3 percent, while Minnesota’s poverty rate was lower, around 10.9 percent (2009 data). However, it is not known whether high rates of volunteerism lead to lower rates of poverty, or if higher rates of poverty lead to lower rates of volunteerism. ( and

  1. High rates of unemployment tend to correspond with lower rates of volunteerism.

The national unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in 2010, while Minnesota’s unemployment rates the same year hovered between 6.9 and 7.8 percent. If you are looking to engage job seekers as volunteers in your organization check out MAVA’s toolkit.

All of this information can be found at, which includes data from all 50 states, information about informal volunteering, and statistics about national service programs.

With a variety of factors working in its favor, Minnesota maintains high rates of volunteerism in all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. So, what do you think? Why do so many Minnesotans volunteer? What makes Minnesota such a great place to donate your time and talents?

Kat Southard

Member Outreach Coordinator



Putting a Dollar Value on Volunteer Time

August 15, 2011

How are you showing the value of volunteer time in your organization?  Here are a few of the tried and true formulas, plus some new thoughts on the subject:

The Estimated Dollar Value of Volunteer Time

The formula used by many in the field is based on information from  The estimated dollar value of volunteer time in 2010 was $21.36 per hour as established by Independent Sector.  The value is based on the average hourly earnings of all production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls (as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Independent Sector takes this figure and increases it by 12% to estimate for fringe benefits.  This isn’t a bad way to show what you’d have to pay your volunteers were they paid staff.  But be careful how you share this information– are any of your paid staff paid an hourly $21.36?  Careful messaging and planning is needed when using this figure.  For more information visit Independent Sector’s website at:

The Federal (or your state) Minimum Wage

Another way to calculate the value of volunteer time is to use the Federal (or your state’s) minimum wage.  The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (Minnesota uses this figured.). Although 1/3 of the figure used by Independent Sector, this figure may be more palatable to your staff and a figure that many people can relate to.  Some states have higher (and lower) minimum wages, so do some homework before using this figure.  For more information on the Federal Minimum wage and labor laws in your state, visit:

Full-time Employee (FTE) Equivalency

If you were to work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, you would have worked 2080 hours.  If you take the number of hours volunteers contributed throughout the year and divide that by 2080, you’ll have the number of employees it would have taken to complete those hours.  An example:  If volunteers contributed 12,000 hours to your organization in 2010, dividing that by 2080 would show it would have taken 5.77 full-time employees to complete that same work.  Sometimes the number of paid bodies it would have taken to complete a project speaks louder than their cost!

Tell Your Stories!

If you were lucky enough to hear Linda Graff ( at the 2011 MN State Conference on Volunteerism, your world may have been rocked when she asked “What would happen if volunteers didn’t work for your organization (or the world for that matter) for one day?  How about a week?  What would happen after a month?”  Scary, isn’t it?  If you can put a value on that, and help others to understand that value, you’ve made a very strong case for your program.  Start collecting and sharing stories about how volunteers made a difference in your work.  Get quotes from stake-holders and the volunteers themselves.  Share your worth!

Terry Straub

Program Coordinator, University of MN Extension Master Gardeners in Hennepin County at University of Minnesota Extension

Placing Highly Skilled Volunteers in Highly Rewarding and Beneficial Roles

August 4, 2011

‘Betty’ indicated her interest in volunteering at the Science Museum just like everyone else, through an online application. But with Betty’s, in the notes section there was a cover letter and a day after we received her application we received her resume by email. No, she had not mistaken us for the HR department but was one of those young, highly skilled volunteer prospects we had heard about. She has an undergrad degree, a masters degree, years of experience in a science field, communication skills and a desire to stay busy and serve her community as she transitioned from raising kids back into the workforce. What on earth were we to do? Placing her as we usually do would not satisfy her but we have not had much experience with placing individuals who have such high expectations and abilities to give (not to mention, big repercussions if they don’t work out) before. We have many highly skilled volunteers with PHDs even, but many of them are from an older generation where interacting with the public, the social part that includes teaching, is why they like their role here. This new breed of volunteer seems to want to make an impact on the big picture, make a difference in our content, and interact with the movers and shakers, not just in our visitors’ experiences.

Our museum has a pretty innovative take on volunteer management but we have focused our time on many other projects and had not officially tackled the question of what to do with the skilled volunteer sector yet. We even have a grant volunteers are able to apply for that helps them influence our programming but, it happens on an annual schedule and is limited to working with one staff person and a budget of $1,000. Here was our chance to figure out how to integrate this type of volunteer into a project in progress instead of adding it outside of pre-planned programming.

Over the course of the last 6 months, from the day the volunteer started in one of our regular roles with the promise of more, two things had to be figured out: is this person reliable and everything her resume says she is and where can we put her where she will be well supported and satisfied? Luckily this particular volunteer was patient and we had a project in the works that was her specialty – a lead! A couple emails and phone calls later, I found a person who was on the project and wanted to support a volunteer who had this person’s background, what luck! A meeting was set to discuss support, project details and logistics that I sat in on to make sure the match was solidified. What luck, it went well!

This match, having given us insight into this very fruitful match has promoted us to act even more proactively to be able to implement more highly skilled matches but in as an efficient way as possible. How you ask? This month we will be hosting an hour-long workshop with staff to talk to them about how they can utilize volunteers behind the scenes and how we can support those efforts. This is our first step in figuring out who our internal partners will be so we can start to look for volunteers with specific skill and knowledge sets. Then it is a matter of promoting volunteers internally who match the requirements who have proven their reliability or recruiting externally using a HR/Volunteer Department hybrid interview and intake process. Sounds like a lot of work, but man am I excited!

Molly Kennedy Lageson

Volunteer Resources Specialist

Science Museum of Minnesota

Summertime Blues?: Process Improvements for Summer Volunteer Programs

July 21, 2011

Like many other volunteer organizations, we have the “wonderful dilemma” of receiving a slew of applications during the summer months.  During the four years that I have worked in Volunteer Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, I feel that our summer applicant numbers have only increased.  With this reality in mind, my co-workers and I wanted to brainstorm new ways to improve and streamline our summer onboarding process.  Below is a small sampling of changes that we made to our summer program for summer 2011:

1.  Reduced Our Summer Application Period

In past summers, we have accepted applications between March 1 & May 1.  This year, we reduced this application period to six weeks (March 1-April 15).  We hoped that doing this would decrease our applicant pool and encourage students to apply early.  This worked well, but as we still received several hundred applications, we will be reducing our timeline next year to four weeks (March 1-April 1).

2.  Conducted Interviews In “Waves,” Based On Application Date

As many of us know, sifting through a pile of summer applications can be overwhelming.  We decided to combat this by interviewing applicants in “waves,” based on their date of application.  Once the summer application period closed, we e-mailed all applicants to communicate the fact that we would be doing several waves of interviews, and expected the entire process to take several weeks.  Under this system, volunteers who applied earlier (i.e., closer to March 1) were notified of their summer status before those who applied later (i.e., closer to April 15).  We felt that this system would encourage interested students to apply early, since our program typically fills up quickly.

3.  Implemented A Summer “Attendance Contract”

Due to the short nature of the summer program (typically 10 weeks), we wanted to set a higher precedent for attendance than we have in the past. The following text is the agreement that all new volunteers were required to review and sign before coming onboard with us:


Please read and carefully consider the commitment required of Children’s volunteers. By checking, you are agreeing to each statement.

_____ I agree to make a minimum commitment of at least 40 hours of service (or no more than 2 absences) this summer.

_____ I understand that if I do not meet this minimum requirement, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is not obligated to report anything except the dates and hours of my service. No evaluation forms or letters of recommendation will be completed.

_____ I understand that volunteers who are repeatedly absent will be asked to discontinue volunteering.

_____ If I cannot attend a scheduled shift, I will notify Volunteer Services.

_____ I will learn and follow the expectations for Children’s standards of behavior, and will conduct myself in accordance with established professional guidelines.

_____ To the best of my knowledge, my academic, personal and/or professional responsibilities will not conflict with my scheduled volunteer shifts.  I understand that when a volunteer misses a shift, it may cause planned activities and services for patients and families to be delayed or canceled.

Volunteers were asked to sign off on this before submitting an online application, and were presented with this again at their volunteer interview.

In summary:  summer volunteer programs can be hectic, but please don’t feel afraid to implement new changes and look at improvements to your own processes.  Here at Children’s, we feel that making these changes has heightened the status of our program and encouraged students to truly take their duties seriously.

Our fall application opened yesterday…can you believe it?  Wishing you and your organization the very best for the remainder of July & August!

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