It is common that each generation looks to their successors, wondering what new trends may appear that will have a significant, lasting impact on the future.  This occurs in both the nonprofit and corporate worlds where today’s Baby Boomers are watchful of the expectations, attitudes and values of the Xers, Millennials, Gen Z and Generation Alpha –and their potential influence over the coming years.

One place where current leaders are paying attention is to the way the next generation is managing its philanthropic behaviors. This trend is having a special impact on the nonprofit community where so many organizations have traditionally relied heavily on volunteerism to accomplish their mission. It takes hundreds of thousands, even millions, to teach, feed, clothe, house, protect and advocate for the most vulnerable citizens in our society.

But at the same time there seems to be a diminishing interest on the part of the upcoming young people to join committees, attend meetings and take on large, time consuming projects.  Known for their impatience, coupled with a desire to attain important, tangible goals, this generation is contributing to the re-shaping of volunteerism. Volunteerism is not going away, but a new form is taking root. It is called micro-volunteering.

While the term micro-volunteering first appeared on the scene over 13 years ago in 2006, it has gained momentum in recent years as an efficient way of defining activism. For those (young and old!) who do not have time nor an emotional commitment to long term volunteering, micro-volunteering might present the perfect combination of flexibility, measureable results, and low barriers to participation.

To take advantage of this trend, nonprofits can consider how to restate their volunteer needs to fit into a micro volunteering-friendly package. Wikipedia points out some of the key attributes of this process, saying, “It generally refers to easy, no commitment, cost free actions that take less than 30 minutes to complete.  There is usually little or no formal agreement needed before the volunteer can get started and no expectation that the volunteer will return.” While most micro-volunteering is conducted virtually, it can also be defined as a small task done in the old fashioned, in-person way.  It takes just one chunk of time to plant a tree, hand out leaflets, bring a cake to a bake sale or deliver a meal - without the anticipation of a long term involvement.

Micro-volunteering may not work under all circumstances. But, no matter what the task may be, the concept is to focus on the ability to add real value, delivered through a simple, targeted action to support a good cause.  Perhaps newly driven by the collective attitudes of the millennials, nonetheless micro-volunteerism is an excellent solution under specific circumstances for anyone of any age.

Nonprofits need to acknowledge and embrace these ever-evolving trends as they work to find new and interesting ways to leverage a variety of levels of volunteerism in order to achieve their vision.