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Young Volunteers and the Activation Gap


5 June 2006 at 1:06 pm
Staff Reporter
Young people want to volunteer, but often fail to follow through, according to a new study which describes their inactivity as an ‘activation gap’.

Staff Reporter | 5 June 2006 at 1:06 pm


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Young Volunteers and the Activation Gap
5 June 2006 at 1:06 pm

Young people want to volunteer, but often fail to follow through, according to a new study which describes their inactivity as an ‘activation gap’.

MTV in the US released Just Cause, a research project which studies youth “activism” and the motivating factors and barriers to becoming involved in social causes.

Researchers studied with more than 1200 young people aged 12 to 24, from December 2005 to April 2006.

Although more young people get information about volunteering and social causes from the Internet than from any other media source, the study found that 62% say that the issues that really matter to them are the ones that have personally touched them or someone they know.

Seven out of 10 youth say it is important to help their communities, and more than eight out of 10 say they are somewhat involved currently, but the study says fewer than one in three actually volunteers on a weekly basis.

And while almost four out of 10 say they are very interested in volunteering, fewer than half that number say they are very involved, creating what the study calls an “activation gap.”

The study came up with an interesting way to describe youth volunteer ‘activism”:

1. “Candy Stripers” (23%) Altruistic young people with a sincere interest in helping others who volunteer once or twice per month
2. “Teacher’s Pets” (14%) Eager-to-please résumé builders or those motivated by social aspects who volunteer almost every week
3. “Growers” (25%) Followers who need a push to get involved who volunteer a few times per year
4. “Watchers” (13%) Idlers with a lower interest level who volunteer a few times per year
5. “Blasés” (6%) Young people with low social awareness made up of a high proportion of young professionals who volunteer a few times per year.
6. Uninvolved (18%) Just don’t identify with activism and never volunteer.

Respondents identified personal identity (18%), desire to hangout out with friends (15%), lack of time(14%), and not knowing how to get started (14%) as among the top roadblocks to getting involved in volunteering.

Additionally, 35% indicate that lack of encouragement is a barrier to involvement and half of (51%) young adults say busy work schedules are a barrier.

The third most frequently identified reason for not being more involved is lack of good resources on volunteer opportunities.

Those who identified themselves as “highly involved” got their start, on average, at age 12!

Some 43% of involved youth say that organized religion played a big role in getting them to volunteer and 71% of involved youth say enjoying volunteer activities played a big role as well.



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