BCBusiness + Manning Elliott
A group of young volunteers
Credit: iStock

How millennials view volunteer work in today’s economic landscape

Catherine Miller, partner with Manning Elliott LLP, a mid-size CPA firm in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, sits on the volunteer board of the Chambre de Commerce Francophone de Vancouver. She recently secured a door prize for the group’s gala event—airline tickets to anywhere in the world. While the long-time board members reveled in the fabulousness, the lone millennial member, new to the position, lamented, “But, what about the carbon footprint?”

The other board members paused. It wasn’t that they didn’t care about the prize’s environmental consequences—they just hadn’t thought of it, and that points to a big difference in thinking about volunteerism between millennials and other generations.

“They are much more concerned with the environment and climate change,” Miller says. “In the past you joined a volunteer board because you believed in the organization’s purpose, but now younger members want to know what the organization is doing to be conscious and attentive to important issues.”

In Canada, volunteering is part of our culture, and while many factors motivate us—passion for a cause, personal advancement, boredom—the reasons millennials donate their time are specific. In fact, 70 percent of millennials volunteer regularly, compared with 61 percent of baby boomers and 63 percent of Gen X, and they are 77 percent more likely to do so if they are impacted (emotionally or otherwise) by a cause or if they can use their skill set to have a direct and measurable impact.

Because they don’t have as much disposable income, they are also more likely to support a charity with their volunteer work instead of writing a cheque, and they are thoughtful about who they volunteer with.

This discerning nature shows up in the world of paid work, as well. “When we interview candidates for opportunities within our CPA firm, the millennial candidates ask a lot of questions,” Miller says. “Do we volunteer? What are our extracurricular activities? If they are desperate to get the job they may not, but if they are confident they will have several offers, they will ask and be discerning based on our answers.”

This is important news for charitable organizations—or workplaces, for that matter—interested in drawing young new recruits.

“Young people are more socially responsible than past generations,” Miller says. “They are aware of the devastating impact of climate change, and they are making a direct, personal connection with what is in the news. They wish to take steps now to make meaningful changes at home, at work and in their volunteer efforts.”

Catherine Miller provides accounting and assurance services for private companies, not-for-profit organizations, and charities. She also prepares tax returns for corporations, individuals, charities, not-for-profit organizations and trusts.

Manning Elliott LLP is one of the province’s largest independent regional accounting and business advisory firms with offices in downtown Vancouver (604-714-3600), Burnaby (604-421-2591), Surrey (604-538-1611) and Abbotsford (1-604-557-5750). The firm has been around for more than 60 years and employs over 200 professionals and staff.

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Manning Elliott LLP