Meet your newest volunteer force - Gen Z.  Born between 1995 and 2010, this socially conscious generation is maturing with unprecedented knowledge of social impact.  Their digital lives provide a new level of awareness to the world they will inherit and leave behind. Engaging Gen Z students’ incredible passion for social good is critical for schools to maximize educational outcomes through service learning.  And nonprofits, pay special attention, because Gen Z is currently the biggest audience for volunteering (and quite literally the future). 

Relating to Gen Z

If you are trying to connect as an educator or nonprofit, consider this. According to Business Insider, Gen Z will not understand life before Google Maps, opening a hardcover encyclopedia or hoping your mom doesn’t not pick up the other receiver on a landline phone.  Simply put, you are likely not your volunteer. 

Life as Gen Z

This digital generation carries the amazing benefit and burden that comes with real-time global consciousness.  As socially conscious consumers, Gen Z is less concerned with brand names and more focused on sustainable sourcing. As professionals, social entrepreneurship is one of the most popular career choices.  And as a whole, they outnumber millennials by 1 million

Finding Gen Z

Adora Svitak has been a blogger since age 7.  Her TED talk “What Adults Can Learn from Kids” has been viewed more than 5.8 million times.  The bigger lesson for us adults; the digital generation is effectively using digital channels.  Consider Adora’s motives as a model for her generation:

  • Drive to Achieve: Record a video once and reach millions. 
  • Digital Savvy: Leverage a digital platform to attract visibility. 
  • Social Entrepreneurship: A focus on generational learning - adults learn.

Engaging Gen Z Volunteering

This may be the greatest opportunity for schools and nonprofits trying to engage a socially conscious generation.  


Go Digital: This generation truly doesn’t understand why you chopped down a tree to give them a piece of paper to document their volunteer hours before entering them in a computer. This is the generation that says “no” to a receipt at a gas pump.  Providing a digital solution to record, share and document their social impact sends volunteer hours soaring.  


Empower Influencers: Educators and nonprofits trying to harness this opportunity will also benefit from social impact reporting.  Look no further than Forbes digital roadmap: The Key to Gen Z is Video Content.  The ability to participate, convey impact and share social good with Gen Z peers creates a cycle of volunteer influence to engage a larger audience. Gen Z is so accustomed to influencers that many nonprofits have turned to influencer strategies.  Consider your community service or service learning influencers as a tremendous resource.  Empower them with the impact reporting they need to attract others. 


Remember the Smartphone Generation: It is important to consider, “you are not your volunteer” when inspiring this generation.  Going live on Facebook or gamifying volunteering are common to this generation. Encourage digital reporters via Facebook Live (remember influencers!) to send your engagement soaring. Curious about gamification?  Provide real time reporting to enable a socially conscious, highly driven generation of students/volunteers to compete over social impact outcomes.  


As educators and nonprofits we must embrace, empower and encourage Gen Z. They are unlike any generation prior which provides so much opportunity. Who knows how many lessons Adora and the rest of Gen Z truly have in store for us adults if we empower them to their greatest impact.  

If you are looking for resources to help your volunteers achieve more, download our ebook - Developing and Managing a High School Volunteer Program

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