How to Get Youth Volunteers

  • Peer Influence. Having friends who volunteer regularly is the primary reason young people get involved.  According to a survey, the influence of friends increases with age — college students were most influenced by friends volunteering, while high school students were more influenced by parents.
  • The road to volunteering is often a nontraditional one. Many of those surveyed found their volunteer opportunities through their religious groups, clubs, friends, or just independently. Religious youth groups are especially influential when it comes to young volunteers. Extracurricular activities such as sports and music also result in high levels of volunteering.
  • Teens love to socialize, and want their volunteering to be more like a party with friends. The survey found that young people who go to movies and the mall frequently also volunteer more.
  • Young volunteers like to be with people their own age, but not the same gender. However, they do exhibit a gender gap, with boys preferring physical activities such as cleaning up the environment and helping younger children with sports; and girls more likely to help with the homeless, arts groups, or other groups of needy people.
  • Short activities that allow a range of engagement.  Accessibility is key. For instance, the study suggests that needing a car to get to a volunteer opportunity could be a major drawback. Also, lack of time is the biggest impediment to volunteering for young people.
  • Young people are very successful at fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising is the most common form of activity for young volunteers, with 38% participating. Such activities take advantage of their strengths — social networking and facility with technology.
  • Young people who text often via mobile phones volunteered more than non-texters or those without mobile phones. Technology seems to encourage socialization, which then leads to more volunteering.
  • Young people who volunteer are happier. They scored 24% higher on a life satisfaction scale.

Make it easy for young people to raise money through their peer networks; make volunteering fun and social; recruit young volunteers through their existing relationships; and offer short volunteer opportunities that run the gamut from lightly involved to more serious engagement.

Young people seem to self-organize and follow their peers. You’ll need to have a separate, nontraditional program to find young volunteers and get them involved. Go where these young people are – their extracurricular activities, sports activities, special interest groups.

Honor their interest in helping people or animals directly, and lighten up on the rules. They may show up late, leave early, and seem self-conscious. While older volunteers often relish the limelight, many young people prefer to be anonymous or even help from a distance rather than up close.


Karmen A. Booker is an Attorney and Nonprofit consultant.  She has a business/nonprofit consulting firm – Compu-Perfect Professional Services, which has been providing the following services for 17 years:

  • Business formation (Corporations, Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s) and Nonprofit Organizations)
  • Contract Drafting and Reviewing
  • Trademark Search and Registration
  • Completion of the 501(c)(3) application for nonprofit organizations
  • Grant Research and Writing

(Please view my website at and Blogsite at

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  • Sample Volunteer Agreement

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