GUEST COLUMN: Don’t Count Gen Z Out When it Comes to Volunteering

By Katherine Cecala, President, Junior Achievement of Arizona

Generation Z, which refers to those born between 1996 and 2010, has experienced a lot. From the digital age to shifting financial landscapes and the COVID-19 pandemic, this particular generation of employees has endured unprecedented change in the ways they work. But what about the ways they volunteer? The results of a recent multi-generational survey on volunteering may surprise you.

To gain a better understanding of how Gen Z perceives volunteering in and out of a place of employment, Junior Achievement enlisted the help of research firm Ipsos.  Overall, the survey found corporate volunteerism declined from 31% before the pandemic to 24% now.  Not surprisingly, out of the 2,294 adults (18+) interviewed online, 39% said a change in their working situation (hybrid, remote) was to blame for the drop.  Other factors mentioned included not believing they should have to volunteer for an employer program, no interest in the opportunities offered, and simply not being asked.

Despite these findings, Gen Z is just as inclined to volunteer as other generations.  What differs are the organizations they want to give their time and efforts.  While other generations seemed to prefer volunteering for social services, like food pantries and women’s shelters, Gen Z is more inclined to volunteer for causes related to the environment, as well as causes linked to education like mentoring, coaching, in-classroom volunteering, book drives, career days, etc.

As for factors that motivate Gen Z to volunteer, 66% said, “It feels good to help out the community.” Other popular responses included “helps build on my experience/strengthens my resume,” and “something I can do with family and friends.”  When it comes to an employer-sponsored program, respondents also stressed the importance of the cause aligning with their values.

Stephanie Wilbur is an Arizona State University student and Gen Z volunteer with JA. She enjoys volunteering in JA BizTown.  She says interacting and helping the 4-6th graders is fun and rewarding. So much so, she brought her sister along on one of her recent visits. 

Knowing how, when and why this particular group of young people volunteers can help corporations and nonprofits capitalize on Gen Z’s desire to play an active role in communities. That is why JA offers a wide array of volunteer opportunities that align with Gen Z’s values, allowing the group to volunteer with family and friends, providing proper preparation, factoring in schedules and locations, and adapting to today’s more flexible work environment. These turn-key experiences work well with existing employee volunteer programs.

Additionally, JA has developed a volunteer engagement toolkit for company coordinators to help them more easily communicate JA opportunities to all company associates. For more information visit

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