This afternoon,  Pew Research Center released an article highlighting 7 demographic trends shaping the U.S. and the world in 2018 and, naturally, we couldn’t resist reading them with the following questions at the forefront of our minds: If these trends are shaping our society, how will they affect service and volunteering? How have they already been influencing your organization’s engagement experience and strategy?

Among the trends highlighted by the Pew Research Center are these that fell into three compelling categories: Generations, Families and Household, and Multicultural Society.


  1. Millennials are projected to outnumber Baby Boomers next year. Numbering 71 million, Millennials are already the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. How are they represented in your volunteer corps? Millennials also have outpaced previous generations in regard to volunteering rates, but many organizations are not prepared to engage Millennials in the ways that they find meaningful.

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you have successful models for engaging Millennials on their terms?
  • Does your organization leverage Millennials’ interest in peer-to-peer recruitment, immersive experiences, and project-based volunteer opportunities?

Families and Households

  1. A record number of Americans live in multigenerational households (one-in-five, in fact), part of a broader trend toward more shared living.
  2. The institution of marriage continues to change. Specifically, cohabitation among unmarried partners is on the rise, including a growing number of unmarried parents.
  3. After decades of decline, motherhood and family size are ticking up in the U.S. Women are having children later in life and having more children than even 12 years ago. Additionally, parents – both mothers and fathers – are spending more time caring for their children.

 Questions to Consider:

  • As parents spend more time with children while also juggling careers, interest in family volunteering opportunities continues to rise. Is your organization able to offer meaningful ways for parents and children to volunteer together? Can you leverage the multigenerational households and engage grandparents and children as “family units”?
  • With adults working and spending time raising children, the demand for flexible volunteer opportunities also continues to rise. What is your organization willing to negotiate when it comes to where and when volunteer work is completed? Can you be more flexible?

International and Multicultural Societies

  1. There are more than 250 million migrants worldwide.
  2. While new refugee arrivals are down in the U.S., their religious composition and national origin continue to change. Over the last decade, the countries of origin for most refugees coming to the US has changed significantly – from Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002 to Asian countries during 2008 to 2012. At the end of 2017, most refugees came from the Middle East and Africa.
  3. International arrivals to the U.S. have risen among some groups. For example, foreign student enrollment and American colleges and universities has doubled between 2008 and 2016.

Questions to Consider:

  • With such changing and diverse backgrounds among refugees, how is your organization positioned to engage immigrants as volunteers in your organization? Do you have a culture of inclusion and diversity? Does your volunteer corps represent the communities you serve?
  • The Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administration recently released a report entitled, “8 Strategies for Creating a More Inclusive Volunteer Program,” that contains strategies to serve as a starting point for leaders seeking to better engage volunteers from diverse and immigrant communities.

We believe that every organization has a choice: To work despite trends (by continuing to do what they’ve always done, no matter what the trends reveal), or to leverage trends. Those that leverage trends are able to tap into the opportunities that a passionate generation of Millennials poses, that parents seeking meaningful ways to pass on a value of service to their children offer, and that skilled refugees and immigrants seeking to build community can provide. In doing so, these organizations will be better positioned to survive and thrive in delivering on their mission.