Attracting young volunteers is becoming more and more of a challenge for charitable organisations worldwide, yet studies have shown that young people today are more socially minded than ever.
So where does the problem lie?
A recent article published in Forbes stated that “73% of millennials are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, and 81% expect companies to commit publicly to good corporate citizenship”.
However, at the same time, the latest Community Life Survey showed that people aged 25-34 years old are the least likely to formally volunteer with only 15% volunteering on a regular basis, and those aged 16-24 are only slightly more engaged with 24% of them volunteering once a month.
There is a clear disconnect between the desire to ‘do good’ among young people, and the number of people acting on this desire through regular volunteering.
What’s in it for them?
It is important to remember that volunteering should be viewed as an exchange: charities gain the help and expertise of people, in exchange for providing opportunities for the volunteers to develop skills and fulfill their desire to make a positive impact.
There are a number of charities who manage to achieve this balance and successfully attract hundreds of young volunteers every year. Looking at these charities alongside each other, the secret of their success becomes quite clear.
How do other charities do it?
Let’s take Oxfam, as an example, to reveal some of these secrets:
1. A bright and engaging website
Oxfam’s website is full of bright colours and attention-grabbing images. Clearly laid out and very easy to navigate, it takes only two mouse clicks to direct you from the home page to all the information on how to become a volunteer with them.
2. Strong social media presence
Likewise, Oxfam’s social media accounts are all consistent with their website and with each other.
Their Instagram account, in particular, is filled with strong, impactful imagery and informative, to-the-point captions. This is especially important when trying to attract young volunteers, as social media has proven to be an invaluable resource for publicists marketing towards young people.
In fact, online adults aged 18-34 are most likely to follow a brand via social networking rather than any other platform. (Source: 21 Social Media Marketing Statistics You Need to Know in 2019)
3. Opportunities for growth
One of the top secrets to Oxfam’s success in attracting young volunteers has been the establishment of their local book and record stores.
These have grown in popularity since the 1990’s and overtaken their traditional second-hand shops to become one of their largest sources of income.
Books and records are donated to the brightly-lit, professional looking stores, which are run and managed by volunteers who are often young people with a passion for literature or music. Working in these stores offers young people the opportunity to gain retail experience in an area in which they have a genuine interest, and to develop skills that will ultimately make them more employable in the future.
Another charity that does well to attract young volunteers, Amnesty International, makes it clear on their website that volunteering with them will give volunteers opportunities to ‘loan [their] own specialist expertise’ and involves a level of skill and responsibility that will allow for personal growth.
4. Genuinely desirable and well-designed products
Oxfam’s second-hand book and record stores are successful because they provide products that people actually want.
The stores themselves are well organised. Customers are not overwhelmed by stacks of mismatched books or records in their search for something they might be interested in.
The growing popularity of vinyl and second-hand books in recent years, means their shops are thriving both online and on the high street.
Likewise, capitalising on the ever-increasing social interest of consumers, they have created a range of high-quality, ethically sourced products. These include health and beauty products, gifts and accessories, and food products under the label ‘Sourced by Oxfam’.
Their online shop – like their high-street stores – is well-designed, easy to use and full of genuinely desirable products that ethically minded consumers can purchase with ease of mind.
The fact that their second-hand stores are filled with popular products such as these has a big hand in making them more attractive to young volunteers who might ordinarily be put off by the stereotypical idea of a stuffy, overfilled charity shop.
How do you get started?
In summary, despite the decline in young volunteers in recent years, this does not necessarily mean a lack of interest.
Charities hoping to attract young people should:
- focus on clear communication online and on social media,
- think about providing a genuinely desirable and well-packaged product, and
- consider what they, in turn, can give their volunteers in terms of growth and opportunity.
Think about your own charity organisation, what can you do to attract young volunteers?
This guest post was written by Betty Henderson, Project Support Intern, volunteering with Social Good HQ.