Millenials, Baby Boomers, and Why You Should Get Involved: Celebrating National Volunteering Week

Sunday, April 21 marks the beginning of National Volunteering Week, and as the president of a nonprofit organization, it's an important time for me to thank the hundreds of school and business volunteers who team up and make a difference on some of the most endemic problems facing students and educators today.

But the week is even more important to me as a parent: Volunteering represents one of the noblest values that we have as a culture. And if we as individuals and as businesses can make volunteering more visible, our children will be more likely to take up our mantle and continue our important work.

I've spent a lot of the last year reflecting on and talking about volunteering -- and I've spent even more time marveling at what we can accomplish when we donate our time, energy, passion, and expertise.

Explaining why businesses should volunteer, why our youngest employees value volunteering, and what we can do to recruit more Baby Boomers are all important ways to both observe National Volunteering Week and encourage more of us to do more together and for one another:

Volunteering is good for your business. Doing good is its own reward, but there are other perks too. Volunteering:

  • Attracts new employees and helps to retain older ones
  • Boosts employee engagement -- which in turn, boosts profits
  • Serves as a valuable form of "public relations" that endears you to your local community.

Apart from these benefits, Skills-Based Volunteering (SBV) -- a particularly effective form of volunteering that asks volunteers to use their professional skills in a different capacity -- is also a valuable professional development skill.

If you want your business to be its best, make sure that it does more than a good job -- make sure that it does good.

Your youngest employees want to make a difference and they'll help you if you help them. I said before that volunteering programs help you recruit new employees. That's particularly true for Millenials: PriceWaterhouseCoopers discovered that 88 percent of Millennials gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and 86 percent would consider leaving if their employer's CSR no longer met their expectations.

Zain Pasha, a Deloitte Consulting Business Technology Analyst who volunteers as a PENCIL Partner at the Community High School for Social Justice, discussed what inspired him to volunteer, and why volunteering was so important to him and his peers in a recent interview:

According to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 61 percent of Millenials said a volunteer program would be a factor "when choosing between two potential jobs with the same location, responsibilities, pay and benefits."

Businesses are only as good as their employees -- to hire the best and the brightest, you'll need to find a way to help them give back.

We need to to get Baby Boomers involved. "Boomers, hang your heads in shame," a recent Forbes article begins before explaining that the "number and percentage" of 45- to 65-year-olds who'd volunteered in the last year had dropped faster than the national average.

Historically, Boomers have been among the most passionate and consistent volunteers out there, so their recent absence is incredibly disturbing.

One of the best ways that we can attract more Boomers to volunteering is through SBV. Boomers have a wealth of experience and unique intellectual capital that nonprofits and other organizations absolutely need: To put a dollar amount on it, a United Way blogger estimated that traditional volunteering was valued at about $18 to $20 an hour; in SBV, volunteers' expertise is valued at $40 to $500 an hour.

Those estimates aren't an exaggeration: I've seen the incredible difference that volunteers make when they use their expertise to address school needs -- they've helped our students, teachers, principals, families, and entire schools perform even better.

If you think you can make a difference (and trust me: you can!), please find some way to get involved.

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