Bridging the Generational Gap in Volunteering
Many of our volunteers tend to be retired adults. It makes sense, they have time and are dedicated to the cause of ending poverty for the vulnerable. But we also get excited about engaging the high-school and college-aged crowd and bridging the generational gap in volunteering. Cultivating a heart of service in the next generation of leaders is a great way to see poverty end in the hard places.
We asked one of our student volunteers why she decided to volunteer at Food for the Hungry (FH). We expected her to tell us that it was a recommendation from a classmate. Maybe it would be because FH is so close to ASU’s downtown campus. To our surprise, Brianna picked FH out of a list she was given by her professor of acceptable non-profits to earn hours for her social work class. In Brianna’s words she “loved what we were about.”
Young college-aged volunteers can be difficult to engage and recruit at times. Their schedules are busy and they’re always on the move. Most college students are engaged in connections with organizations via social media. Because of this, that the number of our student volunteers increased by more than double from 2016-2018. It’s worth exploring not only how our volunteers benefit us but how FH serves them as well.
Most people are under the impression that students are too busy or just are uninterested in volunteering. But when we consider the number of hours students put into their fraternities and sororities and even extracurricular activities we can see that time is not the issue. Students want to feel a strong connection with a cause and a call to action they can do something about. They want to hear authentic heartfelt stories that resonate with them about how an organization has impacted the lives of others. No matter what age, under the right circumstances anyone can be motivated to add volunteering to their schedule. What seems to draw students to FH is simple; purpose.
Unlike our other volunteers, students are volunteering at FH for a much shorter time because they’ve most likely come for a college credit opportunity. Since we welcome volunteers for any amount of time, we have to ask ourselves, how do these short-term volunteers help us? Although students aren’t with us for very long they can make a big impact. They share our values, vision, and purpose withother students. By just serving with us for a short time we are able to build personal, meaningful relationships and that means a lot for our continuing cycle of students.
It’s easy to constantly think about what volunteering can do for your organization but, it’s also important to contemplate the ways in which your organization has transformed the people who’ve given their time to you. At FH we’ve increasingly made attempts to clarify our purpose. We respond to human suffering and graduate communities from extreme poverty. We’ve been introduced to our FH heartbeat and made our vision very direct. By the end of her time at FH, Brianna learned some great lessons. She learned that “a helping hand can go a long way even if it’s just stuffing envelopes.” Our purpose at FH is what drives us to build relationships with volunteers. It drives volunteers to build relationships with us.
You can learn more about volunteering at FH here.