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Last updated March 6, 2015

Gen Y volunteers have so much to offer non-profit organisations, but if you want to attract them (and keep them!), you need to understand what makes them tick. Check out these key characteristics of Gen Y’ers and what that means for your organisation.

1. They are highly skilled and incredibly capable
Generation Y is the first generation for whom attending university was the ‘norm’. As a result they have a high level of skills and knowledge, in a wide range of fields. They also start up more new businesses than any other generation – which means they understand what it takes to run a successful organisation. They don’t want to be stuck stuffing envelopes. Find them roles where they get an opportunity to really put their skills to work.

2. There is no such thing as 9-5
Generation Y was raised in the world of flexi-time, work from home, and remote access. Regardless of the field they’re in, their work is often project or contract based, and involves a series of short term commitments welded together.  Even in a job where they are paid to perform they expect this kind of flexibility, so they definitely expect it in a role where they are not getting paid. Focus on recruiting Gen Y for one-off projects, and then slowly build the relationship.

3. They work at twitch speed
Generation Y has never worked without the internet. They have grown up with Google where the answer to anything has always been at the end of a keyboard. They’ve also grown up with DVD and online video as opposed to VCR. They don’t see the need to fast-forward through anything – they simply skip out the parts that are irrelevant to them. Generation Y volunteers will get incredibly frustrated by organisations that are slow to respond, so make sure you keep the red tape to a minimum and give them everything they need, as soon as they need it.

4. They may work in isolation BUT they are still team players
Generation Y was raised on Facebook, where you can be intimately connected to your friends lives without having to be in the same room. When working on group projects they use technology to communicate and work on things ‘virtually’ together. They want to be kept in the loop and made to feel like a part of the team, even if they’re not working with you day-to-day. Don’t assume that because they’re not on the committee, they’re not committed.

5. They believe they can change the world
Generation Y was raised by Baby Boomers and Generation X who told them that anything was possible, and that “If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. They were constantly told they had unique strengths and that they could do anything they put their minds to. They believed you! Generation Y wants to do more than contribute, they want to make a difference – so make sure you let them know how their contribution really makes an impact.

6. They want to be led – not managed
Thanks to the internet, Generation Y has watched countless people in authority fall from grace. As a result they believe that respect needs to be earned and they will challenge people in authority if they feel it is necessary. On the flipside, once you prove yourself as a worthy leader, Generation Y are very loyal followers. To gain their respect you need to lead by example and show them you respect and appreciate their contribution.

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