3 Unexpected Ways Millennials Can Teach Us About Volunteerism

With data from the Labor Department illustrating what may be the start of a new trend, the lowest number of people volunteering in America in 10 years, it may sometimes seem like the myths about the Me Me Me Generation might just be true. But I have a different theory, or rather, a counter-position.

Perhaps there is a different way of volunteering emerging, a new way to give back that I am a part of, and you can be to.

I was raised with (what I call) a volunteer spark and the idea that one person can create change in the world. After high school my time spent volunteering waned, and when I did volunteer I always had a nagging feeling that I could have done more, that I hadn’t accomplished a real “value add” for the organization. My spark was definitely fading fast as my work, and family (basically, life), took a front seat.

With the advent of the “Big Data” trend came the increased awareness from the public and private sectors that data really helps make this world go round, in ways both big and small. Well, the third sector needs number crunchers just like corporations and government entities do (minus the large budgets). I found organizations that desperately need help from researchers, data analysts, statisticians, marketers, and data scientists just like me.

Almost everyone has heard of Doctors without Borders, well, did you know there is an organization called Statistics without Borders? Its purpose is to promote the use of statistics to improve the health and well-being of all people, and it’s just one of four different organizations I volunteer with that need people with my skill set to put more good things out in the world.

The trend I see from our Millennial Generation is not one of waning volunteerism, quite the opposite. Just like my journey to find a way to balance helping causes I am truly passionate about with making sure I am really adding value, other Millennials are charting their own path and finding new ways to volunteer. Computers and the internet have connected us all to global organizations that need all the help they can get, no matter what your special volunteer spark or your particular skill-set is.

For example if you are passionate about animal welfare, but are unable to travel to shelters or can’t bear the heartbreak of leaving the animals at night, most charities also desperately need help with the “housekeeping” aspects of running a not-for-profit. Things like marketing materials, promotional flyers, donation intake record keeping, finances, grant applications, etc. All these ways of adding value can be accomplished with a variety of professional skills and only using a computer, internet access, and Microsoft Office.

I have yet to approach a charitable organization with an introduction email and offer my skills and abilities, and get turned down.

Not one group has ever said to me “Nope! Can’t use your help, you won’t be giving us enough-sorry!” The movement that lights a spark in you is waiting for you to join them in changing the world. What are you waiting for?


Currently an association director of research, Ariel is a data geek, vinylphile, and a self-diagnosed kinemortophobe, who works hard at giving numbers their voice. Connect with Ariel @arealdatageek and at linkedin.com/in/arielfinno.

Ariel Finno


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