• Vollie allows volunteers to donate their time to charitable causes from their living rooms. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Statistically, millennials aged 18-24 are the least likely to volunteer time to charitable causes, but Melbourne startup Vollie is making it easier than ever before.
Thomas Cunningham

21 Dec 2016 - 3:05 PM  UPDATED 21 Dec 2016 - 4:05 PM

Roam the streets of any trendy capital city throughout Australia outside 9am-5pm and you’ll find a bunch of millennials crammed into small city bars, or sipping lattes at hole in the wall cafes.

For many of these young adults, performing an act of altruism will rarely extend past sharing the odd social media post about why we should care about a cause or volunteer to save the world.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) , millennials aged 18-24 are least likely to volunteer their time to altruistic causes and make  up only 27 per cent of the nation’s total volunteer pool. This compared with 45-54 year-olds who account for 44 per cent.

Matt Boyd, founder and managing director of non-profit organisation Vollie, accepts these statistics but disagrees with the millennial ‘stereotype’ which assumes that young people don’t volunteer because they are lazy or selfish. He says most of today’s youth don’t volunteer because the system of volunteering is out-dated and needs to evolve to suit 21st century needs and our online life.

“Volunteering needs to change,” Boyd tells SBS. “It can’t be the traditional way of all the red tape to start volunteering and that ongoing commitment, because we are all so busy.”

Boyd says he understands that it’s hard for younger people to volunteer even if they want to, because early adulthood is a time when youth want to earn money, climb the corporate ladder and potentially start a family.

Despite the difficulty in finding young adults with the ability to volunteer, he adds, it’s still important to try and get them into volunteer roles.

Young adults are the ones with the “cutting edge” knowledge that organisations desperately need.

Herein lies Boyd’s solution.

Earlier this year, Boyd launched Vollie: a new online marketplace where prospective volunteers can connect with non-profit and charitable organisations. Volunteers are able to type in the sort of cause or issue they are passionate about and their relevant skills in a specific search field, and the Vollie search engine will spit out recommended project matches, with registered charities or companies working for a cause. He says this makes tailored volunteer options quick and easy to find. The site has already teamed up with more than 20 charities including Greenpeace and Make-a-Wish Australia.

As the marketplace is based completely online, there are no physical projects you can sign up for. Instead, Vollie offers volunteers opportunities to help organisations short-term with website development, accounts, legal advice or design.

He says most of today’s youth don’t volunteer because the system of volunteering is out-dated and needs to evolve to suit 21st century needs and our online life.

What’s the catch? Volunteers don’t have to leave the comfort of their home. In fact, they can work on a non-profit’s website or account ledgers remotely without even leaving their bedroom.

Boyd says this is a strategy that appeals to millennials who may want to volunteer but may not have an abundance of time in between studying and working side jobs to find a volunteering project or travel to and from a workplace.

“They can do a bit [volunteer] from their favourite café,” he explains. “They can do it instead of watching that terrible reality show, which is in its 20th season. They can do it down at their friend’s beach house.”

Boyd says many charities have a large number of core volunteers who are able to help out with the on-the-ground work, such as fundraisers and handing out flyers, but most organisations don’t have people to help with online duties. By filling this void and appealing to a wider demographic, Boyd hopes he can save each organisation thousands of dollars.

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Digital aid

Anthony Vyner is a 24-year-old volunteer from Brisbane, who discovered Vollie via Linkedin. He is now working with Wild Paws Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and is building their new website.

Vyner, who has been volunteering all his life, say she has never seen anything like Vollie before.

“[One benefit is having] the flexibility of knowing you are not just alone and there is support if you need it too,” Vyner says.

The millennial, who has been volunteering for a month now, says he wants to try and volunteer for a different project every month from now on.

“Volunteering needs to change... It can’t be the traditional way of all the red tape to start volunteering and that ongoing commitment, because we are all so busy."

Vyner is one of many young volunteers who have already completed 20 projects through Vollie, projects that provide the volunteers with invaluable experience they can show future employers.

The only things you need to complete a project, Boyd says, is a laptop and good WiFi connection.

“This generation [Millennials] is going to change the world for the better, and do so much good, and really be the opposite of lazy,” Boyd says.


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