Motivation to volunteer may be different, but all generations appear to be keen - InfoNews

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Motivation to volunteer may be different, but all generations appear to be keen

Stephanie Moore, project coordinator with Kelowna Community Resources, will also be helping teach a grant writing workshop.
January 29, 2019 - 11:00 AM

KELOWNA - The face of volunteering in Canada may be changing but the desire to help remains a driving force in many people’s lives.

“The general feeling is that there is a change, particularly with young people - what they’re seeking and how they’re seeking to get involved,” Stephanie Moore, project coordinator for Kelowna Community Resources said. “It’s a different feel than it perhaps was, when I was a kid or a young person.”

That means local charities need to find new ways to recruit and retain volunteers.

“Gen Y - so the millennials - they just do things differently than had been done before,” Moore said. “They are probably more globally aware than previous generations. Not only in volunteering but when they’re doing their employment search, they want a job that shows some social responsibility. They want a job that is doing some good for the community and giving back to the community in some way.”

But it’s not just young people thinking differently, she noted. It was baby boomers who may have changed the face of volunteering most.

“The boomers, everywhere they’ve gone through their lives, they’ve paved a new path,” Moore said. “They want to have a sense of purpose. They want to contribute their knowledge and skills and/or they want to develop new skills. They’re continuous learners. They don’t want to waste their time.”

That view is backed up by, Pierre Morrissett, executive director of the Volunteer Centre of Montreal, who wrote on Baby Boomer Volunteering in 2017.

“Today, baby boomers are more demanding about their volunteer work,” he wrote. “They often shop for a variety of considerations that are important to them.”

That includes making a difference, having fun and using their skills or learning new ones. They are also less likely to engage in the long-term or in the regularity of the previous generation. Like the younger generation, they too are looking to short-term, one-off opportunities to volunteer, according to another study.

But it would be wrong to think that baby boomers are the stalwarts of volunteerism and younger generations are lagging behind.

In fact, a 2010 Statistics Canada study on volunteerism shows a different trend, with the rate of volunteerism increasing by two per cent between 2004 to 2010 when 47 per cent of all Canadians did some volunteer work. That study shows the highest rate of volunteering is in the 15-24 age group (48%) versus the older baby boomers dropping to 41 per cent.

Unfortunately for the state of volunteerism, that trend did not hold as 2013 statistics show an overall drop nationally to 44 per cent from 47 per cent. Regardless of the statistics, Moore has been encouraged by young people’s interest in volunteering.

“Some of my friends have 11, 12, 13-year-olds,” she said. “I find in that age group there is more awareness of: 'I just want to do something. I’m a young person, what can I do?' So, I’ve seen a few instances where they’ll collect bottles on their own initiative. They may not volunteer specifically for the agency they decided they’re going to give their donations to, but they’ve gone, ‘OK, I want to support the women’s shelter’ and they’ll go collect bottles and go ask what they need.”

She acknowledges they may shift their focus to more global interests when they grow older. And they may become more prone to the lure of social media and focus more on short-term, special event types of volunteering.

“There is something sort of instant when people volunteer for special events,” Moore said. “There’s an excitement, that fun factor that comes along with it and then, of course, that gets posted onto social media and there’s that immediate exposure. This is how you can get them. It’s additional marketing to say, hey, volunteer for special events.”

Kelowna Community Resources has a listing of about 75 local not-for-profits on its web page.


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