Willing to Serve: The Millennial Generation & Volunteering
Each generation seems to deal with the stereotype of being unproductive, entitled and self-centered. The so-called slacker generation of the 1990s went through this, and the trend dates back at least to the Lost Generation of the 1920s. Today it’s the millennials in this situation, yet despite an unflattering portrait, evidence is showing that, like any stereotype, it doesn’t always hold up.
Refuting the bad rap
Many young people are more socially conscious than recent headlines give them credit for and are refuting the myths about them by getting actively involved in local volunteer efforts. In 2010, the Pew Research Center found that over half of all millennials participated in volunteering efforts in the previous year, proving that they’re willing to devote their time to supporting causes they believe in. According to the New York Times’ Catherine Rampell, in 2011 “community service among young people has exploded.”
In a poll conducted for the 2012 Millenial Impact Report, 75 percent of the Y generation donated money, and 63 percent participated in volunteer work. The 2013 report specifies that this same statistic has grown, with 83 percent saying that they made a donation in the last year. In looking at current data, 75 percent of high school bloggers plan to volunteer this summer, and at least one blogger has pointed out that the majority of people on LinkedIn who have “Volunteer & Causes” as part of their profile are millennials.
Landing that first big job
With the job market rebounding, it’s still tough for recent graduates; so many young people are learning to find new ways to distinguish their resumes from the rest of the crowd. Companies tend to prefer college graduates with some volunteer experience, so millennials have discovered that devoting some time to a cause they believe in is a great way to get themselves noticed by potential employers. It’s also a means for gaining some direct experience, developing necessary skills and building character by stepping outside one’s comfort zone.
Global awareness leading to global activities
As digital communication helps pull people together, people of all ages are becoming more globally aware and starting to understand how their decisions and actions have an impact on other societies. Websites and social media are providing ways to learn about nonprofits and volunteer organizations that provide information on helping people in need around the world.
This kind of awareness motivates millennials to get involved in helping people in underprivileged communities both at home and abroad. Young people who’ve already had some volunteer experience are taking on new challenges by getting involved in high school volunteer abroad programs outside of the U.S. These volunteers are helping at clinics, schools and conservation centers, in efforts that improve sustainability, alleviate poverty and support local education.
Making a change through volunteering
Many like to make comparisons one generation and another as to who’s the most philanthropic or socially conscious. What’s clear is that within each generation there will be many interested in making a positive change who are committed enough to make a difference. In the years to come, community service may receive a great boost from the millennial generation, as young people continue to be involved in volunteer efforts both at home and overseas, and prove that the stereotype about them doesn’t hold up.