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Volunteerism for the Ages

Every generation is shaped by the events and shared experiences of their lives. The Baby Boomers moved to the suburbs, witnessed a man land on the moon, lived through the Vietnam War in their bell-bottom jeans as Hippies worked for peace. Generation X watched video kill the radio star on MTV and saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Millennials were bonded by September 11 as they shared their lives on the internet.

All of these events—and others—have had a significant impact on how generations view life and that includes their volunteering habits. Here is a brief look at how each generation views volunteering.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
There are 77 million Baby Boomers in the United States, so it’s no surprise this group volunteers the most of all generations. Boomers have started to retire, giving them more time to give to organizations. They love to share professional expertise, so it’s a good chance you’ll find Boomers in a board position. This generation also likes to tutor or mentor and volunteers for their church. Consider these volunteer traits: Hardworking, competitive and goal oriented.

Generation X (1965-1981)
It’s no surprise that Generation X has a completely different view of volunteerism. The workaholic Baby Boomers and an increased divorce rate paved the way for Xers to develop a sense of independence early on. Their response has been to strike a healthy work-life balance where they spend volunteer hours centered on their kids’ activities. While other generations have a more worldly view, Xers tend to focus on local causes where they can quickly see the results of their labor. Consider these volunteer traits: Individualistic, resourceful and flexible.

Millennials (1982-2000)
As Millennials are entering adulthood, they happen to be one of the fastest growing demographics for volunteering. Because of the internet, increased airline access and events that shaped their generation, they have a world view. Millennials have the ability to travel around the globe while volunteering for a number of causes, such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps. It’s not uncommon for this generation to take a year before entering the workforce to help a cause. Because Millennials grew up with technology, they have the ability to bring nonprofits up-to-speed in their understanding of the latest. Consider these volunteer traits: Achievement oriented, attention craving and tech savvy.