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Youth Engagement: How to Attract and Retain Young Volunteers

Youth Engagement: How to Attract and Retain Young Volunteers

There are around 1 billion volunteers worldwide — and more than half of them are below the age of 30. The social movements around the world count on the drive and energy young people bring. But why do they choose to spend their time volunteering? Both research and our own experience with Qela’s clients working with young people trying to change the world show that their reasons are pretty relatable – from seeking purpose to picking up new skills. Having young folks involved brings a fresh perspective and a whole lot of energy. So, how can you get them on board and keep them engaged? Let's dive into the reasons behind youth volunteering, the perks it brings to our communities, and some tips for youth engagement

Why do young people get involved in volunteering?

  • Compassion and Supporting Social Causes: Many young people volunteer because they genuinely feel strongly about social injustice. Whether it's offering support to marginalized communities, volunteering at animal shelters, hospital volunteering, or other social justice topics, they are passionate about championing issues close to their hearts and helping people around them.

  • Impactful Contributions: Seventy-three percent of young people are optimistic about the impact of their efforts on their communities. They see volunteering as a tangible way to make a positive difference, whether it's through organizing community events, participating in clean-up initiatives, or supporting local charities.

  • “Coolness” Factor: Volunteering, along with environmental activism and healthy living, ranks among the top three 'cool' activities for teens. This recognition of volunteering as a trendy and socially desirable activity encourages more young people to get involved, fostering a culture of youth civic engagement and social responsibility.

  • Skill Development and Exploration: Youth who volunteer not only contribute to their communities but also gain valuable job skills and experience in the process. From leadership and communication skills to project management and teamwork, volunteering offers a platform for personal and professional growth while exploring potential career paths.

  • Social Connection and Awareness: Engaging in volunteer activities allows young individuals to expand their social circles, enhance their social awareness, and build strong communities of friends while broadening their perspectives on the world around them.

Benefits of including young people in your community

Increasing your youth engagement efforts can help you bring new energy and perspectives into your organization and even build a sustainable volunteering community in the long run. 

  • Fresh Perspectives and Innovation: Young volunteers will bring new ideas and perspectives to your projects, ensuring your initiatives remain relevant and responsive to community needs.

  • Long-Term Vision: According to recent studies, people who started volunteering early on are three times more likely to continue doing so in their adult lives. Also, more than 80% of Americans who used to volunteer as youngsters, consistently donate to charitable organizations as adults. Talk about starting to build that strong community early on!

  • Opportunities for Mentorship and Skills Development: Engaging young volunteers ensures that you secure the future of your organization by building the next generation of leaders, volunteer coordinators and change-makers within it.

  • Enhanced Outreach and Impact: With their digital savvy and familiarity with social media, young volunteers can amplify your organization's outreach efforts, helping you connect with a broader audience.

How to increase youth engagement in your community?

Engaging young people in volunteering requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach tailored to their interests and aspirations. 

First of all, make sure you understand who exactly you are trying to attract and engage in your organization. Young people are a big and diverse group, so specify the demographic information, background, skill set, and interests you are looking for. 

Having this information will help you understand the communication channels you would need to use to increase youth engagement. For instance, if you're targeting Gen Z, you would have to utilize apps like Instagram or TikTok, whereas people in their late twenties/early thirties would be more effectively engaged through platforms like Facebook. 

Also, consider the language and tone you use in your communications – being relatable and authentic will help you attract and inspire young audiences. By tailoring your approach to the specific needs of young people, you can create a welcoming and inclusive environment that encourages their active participation and fosters a sense of belonging within your organization.

Here are a few tips on how to increase volunteer engagement among your younger supporters:

1. Communicate Your Mission Clearly: If you want young people to be on board with your objectives, make sure they are clear and aligned with your younger audience’s values. As we said, many young people care deeply about social justice issues, marginalized communities, and climate change and will want to get behind organizations fighting these issues. We suggest creating very tangible campaigns based on your core mission, providing young volunteers with a way to contribute meaningfully to causes they are passionate about. 

2. Align Volunteer Tasks With Their Interests: Think outside the box and create volunteering opportunities that resonate with the passions of young individuals. By utilizing gamification and assigning rewards for completing them, you can transform volunteering into a fun adventure. 

In Qela, we offer 18 quest templates to choose from when planning your campaign activities. They are divided into nine groups, ranging from tasks that can be completed without getting up from the couch — like reposting an important message or filling out a survey — to more energy-intensive activities like creating a performance. 

3. Make Your Communication Efficient: Young people lead busy lives, so streamline your communication channels to ensure they receive information promptly. 

Volunteer management solutions like Qela allow you to keep your supporters up to date with the latest news, votes, and tasks through a system of push and email notifications you can easily create and send from one place.  

4. Listen to Them and Amplify Their Voices: Unfortunately, in our world there are not so many places where young people can feel like they are being heard and taken seriously. In our experience, when volunteers witness the meaningful impact their contributions have on your organization, they naturally become more engaged and eager to participate in its day-to-day life. 

In Qela, we help organizations deepen volunteer engagement by utilizing Vote Weight — a unique methodology that grants supporters greater influence over the organization's development as they complete quests and campaigns. 

5. Recognize and Celebrate Youth Within Your Community: Celebrate the efforts and achievements of young volunteers regularly, acknowledging their contributions in meaningful and heartfelt ways. Whether it's through personalized thank-you notes, shoutouts on the Qela app or social media show your appreciation for their dedication and hard work. 

With over 1 billion volunteers worldwide, and more than half of them below the age of 30, it’s essential to understand how you can increase youth civic engagement in your organization! By knowing how to attract and engage young people into volunteering for your organization, you can increase your social outreach, foster the next generation of leaders, and ensure the sustainable impact of your community on society. 


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