What motivates different generations to volunteer

This project was initiated through the Vacation Research Experience Scheme to assist Lions Australia to increase membership as part of the Global Membership Approach. Drawing on the existing evidence base, this project aimed to identify volunteering recruitment strategies. The project also aimed to examine differences in similarities in volunteering motivations and barriers across generations; Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. The results of this project are relevant to any organisation that involves volunteers. 

Why is this important?

Volunteering is a significant part of our society, with Australia historically having a rich volunteering landscape however the volunteering rate in Australia is declining (see Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). This is in contrast with increasing population rates, highlighting a growing gap between community needs and volunteering supply. Volunteering is important because of the support provided to people in need with Australians contributing 596.2 million hours to the community in 2019 (Volunteering Australia 2022).  Volunteering also benefits the volunteer by providing a sense of purpose and satisfaction.  With many organisations facing difficulty in both recruiting and retaining volunteers there is a strong need for new strategies.  Volunteering rates and motivations differ across age generations so there is no one size fits all solution.  This project thus aims to identify the motivations, recruitment and retention strategies across different age generations in Australia.

What did we do?

The project involved systematically analysing 31 articles which were found through a search of the Web of Science and Science Direct databases using the terms Volunteering, Motivation, Recruitment, Retention and Generation. The years searched 2000-2022, with a focus on 2021 and 2022,  in reflection of the changed attitudes and trends towards volunteering that have occurred during and since the pandemic. The countries included were those similar to Australia on the Australia in the Human Development Index to increase relevance.

What did we find out?

The literature demonstrated there are differences across age generations in motivations, barriers, recruitment and retention strategies for volunteering.

  • All generations sought a positive working environment, room for growth and leadership, socialisation and rewards.  The specific benefits/rewards differed by generation.
  • Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2013): Motivated by career skills and learning. Recruitment strategies that appeal are social and word-of-mouth, focus on skill development, digital-first.
  • Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996): Motivated by a sense of community, material gains and new skills. Recruitment strategies that appeal are co-operated, working ‘with them rather than marketing ‘to’ them.
  • Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980): Motivated by meaningful experiences, feeling useful and meeting new people. Recruitment strategies that appeal are flexibility in volunteering requirements, volunteering through employer, planning for empty-nesting.
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1954): Motivated by active ageing, a sense of wellbeing and belonging, passing on skills. Recruitment strategies that appeal are mass media, volunteering tasks that are less physically-demanding, moral and social benefits, opportunity to share skills

For more information, contact: katie.mccord@connect.qut.edu.au

Chief Investigators



  • McCord, Katie (2023) Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Lions Australians QUT Behavioural Economics Forum: Australian Lions Membership Seminar.

Lions Volunteers from the N1 NSW district serving the community through volunteering.  Photos used with permission.

Generational Volunteering: Presentation to Lions 2023