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What’s in it for me? Understanding Young Volunteers


15 November 2011 at 11:50 am
Staff Reporter
Volunteering in Australia is growing, especially among young people where volunteering rates have doubled over the last 15 years. But if Not for Profit organisations are to engage young volunteers, they must first understand their motivations and expectations.


Staff Reporter | 15 November 2011 at 11:50 am


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What’s in it for me? Understanding Young Volunteers
15 November 2011 at 11:50 am
Above: Habitat for Hummanity's 'community of volunteers'.  Flickr image NoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Habitat for Humanity Great Britain 

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer, and a decade on volunteering in Australia is going from strength to strength.

Last year 6.4 million Australians (or 38% of the population) undertook some kind of voluntary work. This is a huge increase in voluntary work since 1995, when the first ABS Voluntary Work Survey revealed a volunteering rate of 24%.

Despite the 35-44 age group having the highest rate of volunteering (44% in 2006), and lots of discussion about the potential volunteering goldmine offered by retiring baby boomers, it is the 18-24 age group where the growth has occurred.

The number of young Australians (aged 18 to 24) engaged in volunteering doubled between 1995 and 2006, from 16% to 32%, with no indicators this trend is slowing down. 

Research into volunteering by young people by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) – the peak body representing the youth sector in the state – found that young people’s volunteering was shaped by a number of factors, including their age and stage, gender, whether they had a disability, where they live and their cultural background. 

The report “Volunteering is Catching: A study into young people's volunteering in Victoria 2011” by YACVic researcher Clare Wynne, found that young people want to volunteer in ‘youth specific’ areas alongside peers, identifying volunteering areas that overlap with the activities of youth participation. For these young people, a ‘community of volunteering’, where they volunteer with their peers and meet up to talk volunteering, is important.

The report says that young people are unlikely to be exposed to volunteering in their school community (language schools, secondary schools or tertiary institutions), and there is a lack of youth friendly information informing young people about volunteering, particularly for young people who were not part of a community of volunteering.

The report also reveals that an important factor in motivating young people to volunteering is increasing their future employment opportunities.

Founder of social trends research organisation the Korn Group, Neer Korn, recently wrote about young people and volunteering in the article ‘The Art of Selfish Giving’.

Korn said young people view society as extremely competitive and are more ruthless than previous generations. “They expect something back, even when giving”, Korn said.

Korn said young people expect volunteering to build their CVs. “They seek experiences which offer adventures and personal growth opportunities thereby enhancing their life skills, or ones that directly contribute to improving their CVs thereby making them more appealing to employers.”

The YACVic report made a number of key recommendations to ‘support the continued development of young people’s volunteering’. While these recommendations are aimed at governments, they can assist NFPs wanting to engage with young volunteers. The recommendations include:

  • Developing resources (both print and online) that inform young people about volunteering
  • Capacity building of NFPs to be better able to create and identify meaningful volunteering opportunities for diverse groups of young people
  • Meaningful volunteering opportunities for diverse groups of young people
  • Strengthening of volunteering awareness programs and volunteering opportunities in educational institutions
  • Developing the capacity to use online media and social networks to engage with and support youth volunteering
  • The development and support of a community of young volunteers
     

Want to get more young people involved in your organisation?

Download 'Young People and Volunteering – Guide for organisations, managers, trainers and researchers' [PDF] 



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