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Why Teens Volunteer

Karen Kitchell

More than half of American teenagers and young adults are volunteers. We might think people of all ages volunteer their time because they want to support a cause they care about. However, teens and young adults volunteer regularly if and where their friends do, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Also interesting to note the research done by, a group that works to get young people involved in social change. One of their studies, based on data from 4,363 young people, found that the most common form of support by volunteers was assistance with fundraising. Thirty-eight percent of those in the survey said they helped with solicitations. If you combine social networking skills with teens who are passionate about your cause, you might find a surprising amount of funds being raised.

The study also found that boys were more likely to undertake physical activities while girls were more likely to help the homeless and people in need or to work with art groups. Other findings from the survey included:

• Young people who reported sending out frequent text messages were 13 percent more likely to have volunteered. However, few of those surveyed went online to find volunteer opportunities.

• Seventy percent of young people from wealthy families volunteered, compared with 44 percent of those from low-income households.

• Students in private high schools were 25 percent more likely to volunteer than those in public schools.

The researchers say the responses to the survey pointed out some key ideas to increase volunteerism:

Offer chance to socialize. A top priority for many young people in choosing volunteer activities is having a chance to interact with friends and have a good time.

Close to home helps. Proximity to home ranks second of the reasons why young people choose the volunteer activities they do.

Make it one time or quick. With little time to spare, teens want to complete their task and move on. Consider "one minute" volunteers who do nothing but promote your cause online. You provide the copy and they post to their contacts.

What's in it for me? For high-school students, often a concern about the future is getting into college and paying for it. Volunteer activities can give young people an edge in college admissions or scholarship applications.

If young folks have a great volunteer experience, imagine their impact, as well as involving their friends, and they just might become the volunteer leaders of tomorrow.

About the author:
Karen Kitchel is a Community Volunteer who is passionate about helping those who are homeless or disadvantaged. Previously she served as President of Cheerful Givers, a nonprofit organization, and Director of BI University at BI Worldwide. She can be reached at

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