Canada’s Youth Volunteers

By Kevin A. Jackson

It appears that we are raising a new generation of more engaged volunteers, a distinctly Canadian trend that has surfaced in the past decade.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, more young Canadians, 15-24, volunteer than any other age group for over a decade. Statistics Canada goes on to suggest that this may be influenced by the requirement in certain school districts that students perform a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate.

Volunteer Canada cited the survey as “dispelling the myth of disengaged youth”; repeating that Canadians aged 15-24 volunteer more than any other age group at a rate of 58 per cent versus the overall rate of 47 per cent.

This does appear to be a uniquely Canadian pattern when compared to similar research elsewhere: in the United States persons in their early twenties were the least likely to volunteer at 19.4 per cent, whereas in the United Kingdom 35 to 49 year olds were by far the most likely age group to formally volunteer at 47 per cent. Similar numbers are cited for Australia.

Motivating Factors

There was another interesting study performed in Australia in 2006 when trying to understand the motivations of volunteer firefighters: the younger generation of volunteers are more likely to be motivated by “personal benefits” like career advancement, skills development, new challenges and friendship opportunities (the other motivating benefits examined in this study were safety-oriented motivations and community oriented motivations).

It is important to emphasize that the younger group was as equally motivated by safety and community concerns as the other age groups, they were just more motivated by the personal ones.

Volunteer Hours

There is more insight to be gained when we look at the actual number of volunteer hours reported. For example, boomers aged 55 to 64 contribute an average of 201 annual volunteer hours whereas those aged 45 to 54 contribute 167 hours. This breakdown gets more significant when analyzing the volunteer activity of the 15-24 age group because although more of them volunteer, they do less hours of volunteering: youths aged 15 to 24 reported an annual average of 130 hours and younger adults aged 25 to 34, 109 hours.

Growing Future Volunteers

Statistics Canada cites earlier Canadian research showing that people who volunteered early in life have a greater tendency to continue as volunteers later in life. Combining all of this research could lead one to conclude that the practice of having high school students perform volunteer hours is helping raise a new generation of volunteers that promises to give more than any generation before them, especially as they mature and enter the age group where people tend to do the most volunteering later in their lives.

Associations and Youth Volunteers

What is your association doing to engage younger volunteers? What’s their motivation to connect? How do you recruit them? More importantly, how do you retain them? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and share your insights with colleagues.

– Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating
– Canadian Social Trends, a publication by Statistics Canada
– Analysis of Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and
Participating by Volunteer Canada
– Volunteering in the United States, 2011, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics press release
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012
– 2008/09 DCLG Citizenship Survey, U.K. Department for Communities and Local Government
– By Jim McLennan and Adrian Birch, School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University.
This article appeared in Fire Australia, spring 2006.

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