Volunteering is a significant part of the identity of Generation Y – people in their 20s – because they grew up doing it. Service learning has been fully integrated into many high schools and college-bound teens know that admissions officers love community service.

Volunteering is so well ingrained in the Gen Y culture that a recent Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey found that more than half of workers in their 20s prefer employment at companies that provide volunteer opportunities and 70% believe that companies should use volunteering as a professional development tool.

If you are interested in recruiting people in this age group as volunteers for your nonprofit, keep in mind a few tips from Sam Davidson of CoolPeopleCare. Sam will be the guest speaker during the May 7 Nonprofit Marketing Guide webinar on “How to Connect with Generation Y.”

Don’t ask for long-term commitments. For most of Gen Y, life is usually about trying lots of things and then committing to those things that really knock your socks off. “If I want to learn more about your organization and how I can help, and the only option for me is to commit to 8 hours next weekend or an hour a week for the next 12 weeks, I may just skip it,” says Sam. Instead, offer quick but meaningful opportunities to lend a hand.

Let friends volunteer together. Gen Y is a very social set that prefers to shop, eat, date, and hang out in groups of friends. Volunteering is no different. “We’re not afraid to tackle a big project, as long as we can do it together,” say Sam, who notes that his is the first generation to grow up in schools that required working collectively in groups in nearly every subject. (We would have HATED that, wouldn’t we have, my independent Gen X brothers and sisters?)

Spread the word through friends. When reaching out to 20-something volunteers, forget direct mail, and for email to work, it has to be really good. “Tell me quickly why it’s important, because I’ll be scanning/listening to/reading your pitch while I do six other things, so it needs to stick out,” advises Sam. Instead, Sam says to play your local equivalent of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game: If you want to reach a group of 20-somethings, talk to their friends and friends of friends and have them spread the word.

“If you’re soliciting me directly, let me know the connection to the opportunity, whether it’s because my friend volunteers there or the issue affects me in some way,” says Sam. ” Or, better yet, if you’ve created a low-commitment, team-friendly experience, I’ll hear about it naturally from one of my friends anyway, so by offering something I’ll actually think about coming to, it should market itself.”

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