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Volunteer Engagement: Trends in Volunteer Activitiy

No one can deny that our world is ever changing — becoming more expansive, more technologically advanced, more globally interconnected, and moving at a faster and faster pace. But how have all of these changes affected volunteer activity and the service landscape? And most importantly, how do we adjust our volunteer engagement practices and strategies in response to these trends? 

Episodic Volunteering.

Long-term volunteers who were willing to give a great deal of time to a single organization over many years are quickly being replaced by episodic volunteers who prefer short-term commitments defined in hours or days and avoid any long-term commitments. They are high school students who are required to fulfill a small number of hours prior to graduation, corporate teams looking for done-in-a-day service opportunities, or boomers with multiple commitments and busy lives.

Organizations that have long depended on the long-term commitement model for their volunteers need to adjust their expectations and respond with more flexibility if they are going to succeed in attracting and sustaining community support. 

Technology & the Social Volunteer. 

Another trend that has significantly influenced the world of volunteering is the use of social media. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteering among teenagers, Gen X-ers, and Millennials continues to soar. Born into a technology-saturated world, these young people enjoy a sense of fluency and comfort with devices virtually unknown to earlier generations, and they are heavily reliant on these devices for information, communication, and social connection.

We ignore this trend at our own peril. If we don?t add platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (to name just a few) to our repertoire of communication tools and learn how to effectively apply them to promote our service opportunities, we risk alienating these generations and wasting the precious resources they are capable of mobilizing. 

Have more questions about volunteer engagement?

Connect directly with peers and professionals in the field for real-time answers to your questions via the Volunteer Engagement Message Board powered by HandsOn Greater Richmond and the Greater Richmond Association for Volunteer Administrators (GRAVA).


Alison Jones-Nassar, CVA has worked in various capacities with volunteers in her current role as Manager of Volunteer Resources with Virginia Supportive Housing. She is an accomplished trainer, facilitator, teacher, and volunteer administrator as well as a member of the Greater Richmond Association for Volunteer Administrators (GRAVA) and currently serves as president of the board. 

GRAVA is a professional membership organization that promotes and supports excellence in the management and leadership of volunteers in the Greater Richmond area through professional development, networking, and advocacy. Learn more

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