6 Insights on Youth Volunteering for International Youth Day


By Stephen Craker – Chief Executive, Communities 1st


As the world comes together to observe International Youth Day, the spotlight is cast on the profound significance of engaging young individuals in shaping a brighter future. This day serves as a call to recognise and address the unique challenges and opportunities faced by young people. Beyond demographic definitions, the concept of “youth” varies globally, bringing forth diverse perspectives on their role in society. In the spirit of celebrating International Youth Day, let’s delve into six pieces of recent research that unveil the transformative power of youth volunteering – a force that not only enriches the lives of the young but also propels positive change across communities. From exploring the nexus between youth volunteering and well-being to dissecting the intricate pathways of engagement, these insights offer a compelling narrative for practitioners in both small and large charities.


Youth Volunteering and Well-being: Exploring the Benefits of Engaging in Civic Action
Chris Millora 

The challenges and benefits of youth volunteering and well-being, especially in the context of multiple crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, unemployment and mental health issues, are explored in this paper. It reviews existing evidence and case studies of how youth volunteering can enhance well-being by providing services, support, advocacy, social connections and personal development for young people and their communities.

Potential risks and gaps in well-being services and support for young volunteers are also mentioned by the author, as well as some key questions for further discussion and action. These include how to ensure that youth volunteering is inclusive, safe, meaningful and impactful; how to support young volunteer’s mental health and well-being; how to measure the impact of youth volunteering on well-being; and how to build stronger partnerships between youth volunteers, organisations, governments and other stakeholders to promote well-being through volunteering.


How Effective Is Youth Volunteering as an Employment Strategy? A Mixed Methods Study of England
Bryony Hoskins, Pauline Leonard, Rachel Wilde

According to a study on the relationship between youth volunteering and employment in England, volunteering is not always beneficial for employment, especially if it does not offer career-related experience or is imposed rather than self-initiated. The study used survey data from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Survey and qualitative interviews to examine how access to and outcomes from unpaid work vary by social background and context. It also found that social class mediates access to volunteering opportunities most likely to convert into employment. The study concludes that there is little evidence to support policy assumptions that volunteering has a positive relationship with paid work in the short term.


The Gift of Time: The impact of volunteering and the role it plays in the wider world
British Heart Foundation, 2019

A national survey of over 2,000 UK adults by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) conducted before COVID-19 showed that under 35s volunteer more than any other generation, with over a quarter of 25-34-year-olds (25%) currently giving up their time for charities. It also looked at attitudes towards volunteering across the UK and found that 40% of young people aged 16–24 volunteer to gain new skills and experience as well as help improve their mental health and well-being. Volunteering offers opportunities to do something meaningful for others, to be more active, and to engage with people, helping to reduce social isolation. The report also highlights the personal benefits of volunteering, such as improving mental and physical health, overcoming loneliness and isolation, gaining confidence and self-esteem, and enhancing career prospects. The report also identifies some challenges and obstacles that prevent people from volunteering, such as lack of time, money, information and opportunities. The report concludes with some recommendations on how to attract more volunteers, such as offering flexible and diverse roles, providing training and support, recognising and rewarding volunteers, and raising awareness of the value and impact of volunteering.


Volunteering Journeys: Growing the youth volunteering generation
Institute for Community Studies, 2022

Volunteering Journey is a concept that describes how young people perceive and experience volunteering opportunities and how they can be shaped to support their lifelong participation. The paper presents the findings of a participatory research project that involved over 650 young people from different regions of the UK, as well as stakeholders from various sectors. It identifies three key themes for the Volunteering Journey: creating a shared vocabulary for youth volunteering that suits its diverse, dynamic and flexible forms; helping young people learn about, access and join the varied volunteering opportunities; and developing youth-centred pathways in the Volunteering Journey to increase the number and diversity of young volunteers, considering how their personal and social situations affect their volunteering choices and habits. The paper also offers recommendations for how to improve the system of support for young people to empower, extend and sustain their access to an engagement in volunteering.


Young People in Scotland Survey 2022 Volunteering Analysis
Volunteer Scotland

Based on a survey conducted in 2022 by Young People in Scotland involving 1533 pupils aged 11-18 from 43 state secondary schools, this report analyses the volunteering of young people in Scotland. It presents the findings on the formal and informal volunteering participation, activities, benefits, influencers and encouragement factors of young people across different demographic groups. It also compares the current trends with previous surveys and discusses the impact of global crises and societal changes on youth volunteering. One important point is that the formal volunteering participation of young people in Scotland has declined from 49% in 2019 to 37% in 2022, likely due to the impact of COVID-19 and the living cost crisis. The paper also provides some recommendations and areas for further research on how to support and promote youth volunteering in Scotland.


From goodwill to great impact: Maximising the benefits of volunteering
British Heart Foundation, 2023

This report by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) explores how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected volunteering, both for the BHF and the wider sector. It highlights the benefits of volunteering for individuals and communities, such as improving mental and physical health, reducing isolation, and enhancing employability skills. It also identifies some of the challenges and opportunities for the future of volunteering, such as retaining and recruiting volunteers, adapting to changing preferences and needs, and collaborating with other organisations and the government. The report makes some recommendations to maximise the impact of volunteering, such as building systems to allow volunteers to move easily between different organisations, using social prescribing to promote volunteering as a health intervention, and creating a national volunteer passport scheme.