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Volunteer Opportunities Appeal To Next Generation of Texas Residents

Aug 17, 2007
Volunteerism - - always an important part of life in cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin, and throughout Texas and the rest of America -- is continuing to evolve as a new generation looks to make a difference in society.

What are young adults expecting from a volunteer experience?

Certainly there are key reasons for young Texans to choose volunteering, among them the desire to give back to a cause that may have helped them in the past, to say "thank you," to meet new people, to support a specific cause, or to gain experience.

But the world has changed and so have the people most likely to support continued volunteerism. Those people, the next generation of volunteers, are Millennials, young people also known as members of Generation Y.

Gen Y individuals were born at a time when children and family were in fashion again. Increasing numbers of women chose to be single mothers or stay at home mothers. Other lifestyle chances were permeating society, including the "redesign" of Las Vegas as a family destination.

While the 60 million members of this generation is roughly a quarter less in numbers than their parents, the baby boom generation, there are significantly more of them than their predecessors, Generation X, and Gen Y makes up the most globally aware and racially diverse generation in history.

One of the defining characteristics of Gen Y is the activities that have been part of their lives. From their earliest age, they were involved in school, sports, arts, clubs and activities, never having known the slow pace of life of their grandparents, when mail was delivered by hand, not over the computer.

The pace of change for Gen Y has accelerated dramatically. What once occurred over a decade or two is now measured in months. At the same time, the advance of technology has exposed them to advances never even dreamed of before. The message is that this generation is destined to "live life" in a fast pace if they are to keep up with the change happening around them.

At the same time, those who are a part of Generation Y have caught the interest of the voluntary sector. Or they should.

In short, members of Gen Y are becoming volunteerism advocates, the result of service- learning educational initiatives and service-learning graduation requirements that have encouraged teens and young adults to be active volunteers in their communities.

Robert Putnam, in his book "Bowling Alone." refers to Gen Y as the next generation of institution builders.

"A new spirit of volunteerism is beginning to bubble up from the millennial generation," writes Putnam. "A wide range of evidence suggests that young Americans in the 1990s displayed a commitment to volunteerism without parallel among immediate predecessors. . . America might be on the cusp of a new period of civic renewal, especially if this youthful volunteerism persists into adulthood and begins to expand beyond individual care giving to broader engagement with social and political issues."

Eric Chester, author of "Employing Generation Why?" says volunteerism is at an all-time high, thanks to people who are putting their time where their hearts are. "It is hard to find an organized student club, sport, or activity where participants aren't involved in some type of community service as a part of their credo. Soccer teams stick around after their games to clean up the park. Student councils visit nursing homes, paint homes for the elderly, and hold canned food drives. Cheerleaders volunteer to take underprivileged children trick or treating."

The young people who make up Generation Y are said to be optimistic, team players, rule followers, smart, watched over, trusting, on the cutting edge, and having a capacity for greatness.

Those needing volunteers can look to success in the form of designing opportunities to engage this generation. Such opportunities should be exciting, challenging, and thrilling experiences, with opportunities to be innovative and creative.

Members of Gen Y like immediacy, meaning that the best opportunities are those that engage them quickly, keep them busy and give ongoing, immediate feedback. Volunteer opportunities for members of Gen Y should also clearly define tasks and expectations. Other factors might include bringing technology into play, focusing on collaboration and teamwork, and making sure the volunteers are treated as respected and equal in their role.

As members of Generation Y become an increasingly important part of society, they too will face challenges, including how to stay and keep healthy.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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