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Shaping the Culture: How to Find and Retain Volunteers

Millennials shed light on what motivates them to give back

“It opened my eyes to the cultures, causes and needs happening across the country. I gave back because I wanted to branch out beyond my current work/life bubble and get my name out there.”

This is the excitement 28-year-old Daniel Lopez felt after being given the opportunity to volunteer with his company for a national crowd-sourced philanthropic program. “Like Daniel, I volunteered so I could see good things happening,” added 34-year-old Whitney Totheroh. “I knew my actions could make a positive difference for others.”

Last summer, both Lopez and Totheroh participated on a committee comprised of nearly 120 young business professionals at State Farm® who volunteered their time to make an impact on communities across the United States. Their work was part of the State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program. Now in its eighth year, Neighborhood Assist awards 40 causes around the country with a $25,000 grant each to support education, safety and community development projects. Committee members like Lopez and Totheroh were tasked with reviewing the submissions sent in by causes.

Totheroh says the stories she read were inspiring. “Seeing the good work people are doing in their neighborhoods broadened my horizons. They are identifying problems and making the choice to make a change.”

Lopez agreed, adding the volunteer opportunity with Neighborhood Assist also helped him professionally. “Being on the review committee, I developed a stronger work ethic, better time management and gained more perspective about the world around me.”

The experiences of Neighborhood Assist Review Committee members like Totheroh and Lopez affirms a recent survey by State Farm, stating that certain factors, including showing impact and career development opportunities, can influence volunteerism among Millennials.

According to the study, 66% of Millennials surveyed reported volunteering at least once in the past 12 months. While Millennials had a higher incidence of volunteering, they did it less often than the Baby Boomer and Mature generations. Considering national trends, the findings are noteworthy. Millennials now surpass Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the United States.* As a result, they have the biggest potential to influence volunteerism.

“I feel like there are a lot of Millennials who do something for a short time, and then move on,” said Lopez. “Maybe it’s because they don’t know how their effort is paying off. For me, Neighborhood Assist was different. I got to help communities across the country by reviewing their causes, then witness which ones got grant funding. That was really rewarding.”

“It’s so important to highlight people in this world that are doing good things,” added Totheroh. “Put good out, and you get good back in.”

Echoing the feedback of young professionals like Lopez and Totheroh, the study revealed opportunities for career development and showing the impact of one’s work played key roles in motivating Millennials to volunteer.

Other factors included: 

  • Getting social: More Millennials visit websites to learn about volunteering than any other generation.
  • The more the merrier: Being able to participate with friends or meet new people plays a large role in a Millennials’ willingness to volunteer
  • Knowledge is power: The prospect of gaining expertise in a certain area or learning a new skill, inspires more Millennials to give back.
  • Opportunities nearby: Millennials agree, they’re more likely to get involved if the organization or non-profit is close to their home or job.

“It’s about finding your passion," said Totheroh. “The opportunity to learn, be with friends, and meet new people are all perks of volunteering. Sometimes I think young people may not know how, or where to start. But one thing’s for sure. For me, the best part about volunteering is knowing I helped someone else. That’s time well spent.”

State Farm Neighborhood Assist® returns for its eighth year on April 22!

April is National Volunteer Month! To share volunteer opportunities, or find ways to give back, visit®.


About the Survey

In November of 2017, State Farm conducted a study on volunteerism to identify those most likely to volunteer as well as the conditions or situations where volunteerism rates are highest. State Farm surveyed approximately 3,100 U.S. adults aged 18 and older and weighted the data to match proportions in the U.S. by generation: Millennials (18-34), Generation X (35-50), Baby Boomers (51-70) and the Mature Generations (71+). This study follows a survey conducted the previous year that provided insights on how to inspire and cultivate volunteerism.

*Source: Pew Research Center tabulation of U.S. Census population projections released December 2014 and 2015 population estimates.

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