photoOn the weekend I was up in Parksville, facilitating a session at the Canadian Parents for French conference. It was about “Engaging All Generations of Volunteers” and we got into an interesting discussion about how my generation – Generation X – don’t usually have a lot of time on our hands. We are the new “sandwich generation” – with young kids at home and perhaps aging parents to start supporting more fully. And “word on the street” is (okay, it’s really the research) that we are the worst volunteers.

As people who work with volunteers, how do we engage this typically hard-to-engage demographic? Well, our discussion yielded a great idea that  I think will actually work for volunteers of more than one generation.

Create a list of 15-minute volunteer jobs.

You know those times when you are waiting in line or waiting for the kids to be done their (insert sport here) gymnastics, swimming, skating practices? Or the small snippet of time you have while dinner is cooking on the stove? These are times when those of us who are connected via mobile devices – and maybe even those of us who are not – may be able to knock off one or two 15-minute volunteer jobs. It’s more productive than just surfing the web, checking our Facebook status, or just standing there with a wooden spoon in our hand, and it actually means that we could make time to fit volunteering into our life.

So what can be done in 15 minutes? Here are some initial ideas:

  • Craft an email to a distribution list
  • Make updates to a website
  • Research grant opportunities for your organization
  • Promote your organization with a few tweets on Twitter or a post on Facebook
  • Start writing a blog post, or edit or contribute to a blog post that someone else has written
  • Make phone calls
  • Brainstorm ideas about how to get the word out about your upcoming event
  • Start crafting some survey questions
  • Put together a Doodle to invite committee members to your next meeting
  • Watch a YouTube video to learn something relevant to your organization that you can share with others
  • Have a short Skype or Facetime meeting
  • Email another volunteer and ask them to do a small job 🙂

And these are just the ideas that I brainstormed myself in less than 15 minutes! No doubt you can be more creative thinking up some more. (Feel free to comment to let us know what they are.)

So don’t give up on us Generation X’ers just yet, just think of all the ways that you can try to engage this generation that is already pretty engaged. For the right cause and the right organization, committed volunteers from this demographic can be found on a time schedule that works for everyone.