Last year almost 350 young professionals turned out for the Austin Young Chamber’s Nonprofit Fair, and organizers expect at least that many this year. The free event offers attendees a chance to browse 35 nonprofits in a range of causes – from education to the environment – and learn about how to get involved.
But according to the most recent report from 2015, Austin millennials aren’t exactly the most ardent volunteers. The annual report Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Austin 48th of large cities in millennial volunteering, behind Dallas, San Antonio and Houston with just 16% of millennials reporting that they’d volunteered that year.
Matt Glazer of the Austin Young Chamber says the Nonprofit Fair can help more millennials find their place in volunteering. “Some people are just starting families and careers and don’t have much time to give, so they go out and clean a park or partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a house. But we’ve got to talk about the greater needs in the community. We’ve got to identify the future leaders and let them know that raising your hand can be the difference.”
Glazer says that the event is one of the most popular and most enduring events Austin Young Chamber offers. “It’s the belief that people can make an impact that makes it so popular,” he said.
At the event, attendees go from table to table browsing materials, talking to representatives about how each nonprofit serves and learning specific ways they can get involved. Elvira Marin of Breakthrough Central Texas manned a table last year and will do it again this year. “I’m looking for people who are available when we need them,” she said, “mostly after school to help students in upper-level math and sciences.” Because Breakthrough serves students from 6th grade through college, Marin says millennials can be a great resource. “They can identify with our students because they’re just out of college themselves. We value that near-peer relationship.”
Marin says that success for Breakthrough at this event would mean at least 20 people visiting her table and five signing up to learn more. For her, just being there has value. “It helps us with name recognition later,” she said.
Vicky Pridgen, one of the AYC members organizing the event, says that attending the event two years ago is what made her join AYC. Since then she’s served on the leadership service committee, which organizes it.
“I feel like my perception of my peer group is different from the stereotypes,” said Pridgen. She says she thinks it’s true that young professionals are looking to work at companies that have a good relationship with their community and have a philanthropic culture. “But young professionals want to give back in their spare time, too, especially if they’re not doing that at work. Maybe it’s because of the young professionals I hang out with. I think the future is great.”
Austin Young Chamber Nonprofit Fair
Wednesday, May 31
5:30 – 8:00 pm
800 West Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, TX 78701
PHOTO: Hundreds came through the Austin Young Chamber Nonprofit Fair in 2013 at the Livestrong headquarters to learn volunteering. Photo courtesy Austin Young Chamber.
NOTE: This story was also published in the Austin American-Statesman on May 21, 2017.