Gone are the days of volunteer and community hours to “put on your college application.” Volunteering for youth today isn’t just about ticking a box: it’s about generating lasting change and using their voice to make a difference. In fact, a recent study showed that 26% of youth ages 16-19 already volunteer on a regular basis. When it comes to giving back, here are three habits we can all learn from Generation Z:
Don’t be afraid to ask for the bigger picture. Yes, college applications and those “volunteer hours” matter for some teens. But Generation Z is a generation that also asks “why and how” – and looks for volunteer opportunities that also matches their passions and interested. If you’re running a volunteer event, share with your volunteers why their work will make a difference. If you’re the volunteer and you don’t know – ask!
Expand your definition of making an impact. We have to find new ways to engage with our communities, whether it’s on social media or a community service opportunity. Generation Z is the most connected and fluent generation in social media. Period. They are now posting messages, sending visuals, and sharing their experience visually in a way we have never seen before (but often, many of their “shares” are private and not always meant to be celebrated/recognized.) Community service is now activism – a desire to help achieve lasting change. There are many causes that you can lend your voice to raise awareness in your social network – if you can’t join in person, how can you use your voice to make a difference?
If the opportunity doesn’t exist, create it. Manpower is always helpful, but beyond stuffing backpacks or picking up trash, Generation Z is also looking at opportunities that help to further a cause or make a lasting change. And they’re not afraid to start their own business or program if it doesn’t exist. If you’re building or managing a corporate volunteering program, consider how to partner long term with organizations and opportunities to build a true partnership and not just a one-off opportunity for your employees.
From Millennials to Baby Boomers, it’s never too late for us to pick up new habits – and Generation Z may have provided us with the perfect template to increase our capacity to make a difference. Next time you have the opportunity, think about what we can learn from youth today – you may be surprised by what you discover.
Sophia Harrison Curcio Program Partnerships Coordinator