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National Volunteer Week: Employee Volunteerism Across the Generations



A happy National Volunteer Week to you and yours! April 21-27 is our designated springtime week here in the U.S., during which time we inspire each other to re-engage and give of ourselves to our communities.

Here at Edelman, we give a lot of thought year-round to inspiring people to engage. We often work with corporate clients to create “spectrums” of volunteer opportunities for their employees that range from low engagement (e.g. book drives, one-time hands-on volunteer events) to high engagement (e.g. executive nonprofit board service, six month pro bono contracts). But there’s another kind of spectrum that’s important to consider when looking to inspire engagement – a generational spectrum.

Often professionals of different generations and different stages of their careers are looking for different things from their company’s employee volunteer program. Below are a few examples of how companies can think along the generational spectrum.

Milllennials Recruitment

We know from the Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey that 62% of Millennials prefer to work for a company that provides opportunities for its employee to apply his/her skills to benefit nonprofit organizations. So it is serious business for companies to show off the volunteer opportunities they offer as part of their recruitment process.

PricewaterhouseCoopers [disclosure: Edelman client] is one of the companies that has taken this to heart. Since 2008, they have engaged more than 760 of its interns (and potential future employees) in its “Project Belize” – sending the interns, alongside permanent PwC staff, to Belize for a week at a time to work in impoverished schools. PwC also discusses the program in its student magazine – “On Campus.” It’s a great PwC advertisement for service-minded Millennials.


The Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey also tells us that 70% of Millennials believe that companies should use volunteering as a professional development tool. Millennials – many of them still early in their career – are hungry for opportunities to cut their teeth. Skills-based and pro bono projects give them that opportunity to learn and test their skills while satisfying their desire to give back.

Gen X Nonprofit Board Service

Gen X-ers, more mature in their careers, need less skills development, but more leadership development. They are today’s corporate leaders and need to build their style and comfort level.

As Alice Korngold wisely points out in a recent Fast Company article, there are few experiences out there that provide as valuable a lesson in leadership as serving on a nonprofit board. As she aptly describes it, it is the “ultimate experience in ethics, accountability, leadership, group dynamics, and crisis management and communications.” It’s no wonder that more than 90% of Fortune 500 HR managers agree with her that volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills. Also perhaps no surprise that more than 75% of Harvard Business School alumni serve on a nonprofit board at some point during their careers.

Boomers Encore Careers

Many Boomers are beginning to retire or ponder retirement. According to Civic Ventures, there are 31 million people ages 44 to 70 who want not a retirement spent by the pool, but encore careers combining personal meaning, continued income, and social impact.

Some companies are actually seeing this desire and helping their Boomer employees think about ways to use the skills from their current careers in their new careers. IBM offers a program called Transition to Teaching, which helps employees get the required training to be able to become high school math and science teachers – helping to fulfill a critical teacher shortage. Employees are eligible for a total of $15,000 for tuition reimbursement or stipends for up to a year of field experience.

How is your company thinking along the generational volunteer spectrum? This National Volunteer Week, we encourage you to take some time to brainstorm how you might cater to employees at each stage of their career development through your employee volunteer program.

This post is produced in partnership by Edelman’s Employee Engagement practice and B+SP’s Corporate Citizenship Center of Excellence, a team of experts, idealists, and actionists committed to driving mutual benefit for business and society through the development and support of purpose-driven corporate citizenship efforts. Click to see the previous post here.

One thought on “National Volunteer Week: Employee Volunteerism Across the Generations

  1. Pingback: Edelman Provides Engagement Examples for National Volunteer Week | YourCause

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