Gen Y & Z Impact the Future of Volunteerism
By: NobleHour Special Contributor Latasha Doyle
Today’s teens and young adults are “coming of age” in the first real digital era. Some of these soon-to-be adults have never even known life without computers. In addition, they dominate a huge portion of the U.S. population. Generation Y is composed of individuals who came of age in the late 1990’s and mid 2000’s. Generation Z started entering adulthood after 2010 and many are still teens. Gen Y, more commonly referred to as the Millennial group, consists of nearly 80 million people and accounts for about a quarter of the population. Gen Z, mostly still in their teen years, accounts for over 26% of the total population - the largest demographic in the United States. This phenomenon is not just seen in the United States; half of the world’s population is now under the age of 25. Pretty amazing, right? These generations are often called the “silver spoon babies” by older generations. Many of them have been born into a life of entitlement, with many modern advantages that make life incredibly easy. While many people want to give these individuals a bad rap because of their youth, their unique approach and changing mindset provide a huge advantage to the volunteering community. Imagine what half of the world’s population could do if they set their minds to it.
Impact of Y and Z
It’s hard to imagine half of the world’s population being under the age of 25 - that’s about 3.5 billion people. In the United States, what is becoming more and more clear as Gen Y and Gen Z mature is their desire to produce a different future for the world. For the first time in history, these young adults are putting their happiness, the happiness of others, and the long term future of the world ahead of material pursuits and personal goals. Studies have found that Gen Y and Gen Z are more willing to do work that makes them happy rather than work that pays well. According to a self-reported UN survey, Gen Y is much more social, accepting of diversity, and much more into collective action than the Baby Boomers. Gen Z, while still fairly young, want a casual work environment that is based on a personal relationship with their coworkers. They desire much more diversity and challenge in their work. Both Gen Y and Gen Z want to make an impact with their work. They are not as concerned about salary and security, something that is marked by the Baby Boomers’ intense hold on retirement. This means that as the Baby Boomers age and Gen Y and Gen Z approach full adulthood, the United States will experience a great shift in priorities.
A Changing Paradigm
Consider the possibilities in reference to volunteering. If nearly half the U.S. population is moving towards a more collective mentality, then we should see an increase in volunteering. If one person realizes he or she can have a positive impact, and financial gain is not a priority, volunteerism could be on the rise within just a matter of years. These young adults are “fertile ground” for a huge volunteer movement, one that could really boost their communities, their country, and possibly even spread on a global level. Some reports indicate that over 75% of Generation Z is very interested in having their volunteering count towards work experience, and over a quarter of them are already volunteering. Astonishingly, one report found that over 60% of those in Generation Y were already volunteering, and over 70% of the respondents had raised money for a charity at some point. These are huge numbers, especially compared to other generations. What is most striking is the common social perception that these “kids” are often seen as lazy or ungrateful, thanks to an entitled lifestyle. However, these statistics and reports show an entirely different picture. There is so much potential here.
Using Social Media for Good
One of the markers of both Gen Y and Z is their love of all things technology. For Gen Z, they are the first generation in history to never know life without computers or the Internet. These young adults and teens are more technologically competent than any other generation before, and they adapt to rapid changes in devices and software easily. Because of this frequent exposure and use of technology, Gen Y and Gen Z have a unique ability to approach volunteerism. Consider the possibilities of their advanced ability to reach out to other communities via the Internet. Forums, online groups, and an ability to spread a message further than ever before make it easy for Gen Y and Z’ers to contribute to the social good. It also makes them a special asset to volunteering communities everywhere. They can contribute their computer skills, social media experience, and ability to learn new skills to helping any program. Instead of focusing on all of the problems that can arise from having a heavily digitized population, think about all the positives that can be applied to volunteerism at large.
Supporting These Generations
While we are seeing this massive change in personal mentalities and approach to lifestyles in the Gen Y and Gen Z populations, we’re also witnessing a change in their social dynamic and many other aspects of life. Technology has been a part of these individuals’ lives since they were very young, if not from birth, and the majority of teens and young adults report that they would rather text or email than talk over the phone or face-to-face. In addition, nearly 60% of Gen Z has reported that they are worried about the future, and believe that political and climate concerns are going to be a major player in their safety and security later in life. These almost-adults are facing some of the most intense identity issues of any other generation, including racial, sexual, and social roles. As they enter adulthood, these kids will be faced with a lot of responsibilities and pressures, just as those who came before them. What makes them different is their collective mentality.
If these kids and young adults could channel their efforts and their passions into something to benefit others, they would inadvertently benefit themselves. So many things change in life as you enter your teenage years and then young adulthood. Nearly everyone can remember the turmoil that came with those teen years - the angst, drama, and bad fashion choices. Young adulthood is marked by “leaving the nest,” going to college, or just starting out on your own path. Some get a degree (or two), get married, start a family. All of these major events can lead a person to feel like life is nearly overwhelming, leaving little room for more than just trying to get through it. However, what if, starting with these generations, volunteerism became a primary tool for socialization, work training, and general social improvement?
These individuals have already reported that they desire to help change the world, and they are willing to work together to do so. Imagine what could happen if we promoted volunteerism as a valid option for their college and work resumes, rather than channeling their abilities for financial gain. It could help them in more ways than just their future goals. There are numerous possibilities here. Middle school and high school students in the Gen Z group could use their digital skills to make an impact - supporting charities and nonprofits who need help with their social media. These kids and their slightly older friends, the Millennials, could benefit from interacting with others towards a common goal, a skill they may possibly lack as children of the Digital Age. And, with colleges taking into account volunteer experience, students and their communities will both benefit from their service.
Volunteering could also help them passionately express their beliefs and concerns, teach them a little something about the world around them, and let them embrace the characteristics that are greatest about their generations. After all, they are the future leaders who may find a way to reverse climate change, eradicate terrible diseases, or just make the world a better place in general. All they need is a little boost from others to help them find outlets for their gifts. Schools can continue to encourage volunteerism, corporations can host volunteer days, and society in general can create an environment where these tools can be used for good. It’s possible to encourage them to volunteer in order to better their own lives, and in return the lives of others. All they have to do is use all of the gifts they’ve been given as products of the Y and Z generations.
Are you ready to make your mark by volunteering? Let NobleHour help you find meaningful opportunities, track your service hours and measure your impact!
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she's not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.