How to Design Opportunities for the 21st Century Volunteer

Volunteerism in the U.S. has changed significantly over the last 50 years.  In 2012, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that 64.5 million people volunteered in the previous year.   In previous research conducted in 2008, the largest change in the hours spent volunteering was in the 20-24 year old age group.  In the most recent report in 2012, the people aged 35-44 were most likely to volunteer.

For volunteer programs to be successful moving forward, they must be designed to appeal to these demographics. What does that mean? Between juggling full-time work and starting a family, younger volunteers need fun and flexibility.

Volunteer opportunities need to be broken down into small pieces. “Episodic volunteering” is a term used to provide smaller, more manageable commitments.  Microvolunteering is even less time commitment. This allows individuals to offer minutes of their time to help organizations.   Sparked has developed a internet based platform that allows individuals and organizations to solve problems online in real-time all over the world.

So how do you design a volunteer program for the 21st Century volunteer?

1. Break it down: Provide short-term opportunities.

2. Ask yourself: How can we use the internet?

3. Find that Perfect Match: Align the interest of the volunteer, the organization and the client being served.

4. Make it fun!

Do you want learn more about effective volunteer engagement? Watch this presentation I recently gave at the University of Wisconsin, Communiversity Series, in Madison.

Or explore these other resources:

Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources in the Community (McCurley & Lynch, 2011)
The Volunteerism Bibliography
Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action
Corporation for National Service
Virtual Volunteering Project
Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement