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Recruiting & Involving Youth

Sometimes the best way to get youth to volunteer is simple: ask. According to one study, young people who are asked to volunteer or vote are much more likely to do so (Lopez et al, 2006). The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) found that “youth volunteers who have a positive experience are likely to volunteer again and tell their friends about it. Those friends, in turn, will be more inclined to volunteer.” (CNCS, 2010c)

Youth who are at-risk or from diverse backgrounds

According to research, youth from disadvantaged backgrounds are less like than their upper- and middle-class peers to volunteer. CNCS suggests that 43 percent of disadvantaged youth reported volunteering, compared to 59 percent for all American youth (Spring, Dietz, & Grimm, 2007).

In addition, only ten percent of disadvantaged youth believe that they can make "a great deal of difference in their community" and 41 percent reported that they had "a little, almost none, or no difference at all" (CNCS, 2010d).

Similarly, students with lower academic achievement are not volunteering at the same rate as those reporting higher academic achievement. Of students who reported having a B+ average or above, 46 percent responded that they have been involved in volunteering as a part of school compared to 26 percent of those students who reported having a C average or lower (CNCS, 2005). 

CNCS emphasizes the importance of recruiting youth from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who are not traditionally involved or asked to serve in volunteer efforts (2010d). To ensure that youth from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed, it is necessary to be sensitive and conscious in multicultural and diversity efforts. CNCS suggests the following three strategies: 

  1. Establish name recognition for your program within the targeted community.
  2. Develop an articulated, well-conceived plan.
  3. Collaborate with existing programs (such as after-school clubs, music groups, and sports teams) that bring in youth from your target population and have name recognition in the community.

Including family members

According to a 2005 survey, when compared to a youth with no family members who volunteer, a youth from a family where at least one parent volunteers is almost twice as likely to volunteer, and nearly three times more likely to volunteer on a regular basis (CNCS, 2005).

Many family members have not been invited to volunteer, and may not understand the potential benefits to all members of the family. Extending a personal invitation and underscoring what volunteers have to gain—job skills, community connections, academic credit—can make a difference (CNCS, 2010c). Even if family members are unable to volunteer or choose not to, organizations can foster a sense of partnership and help the families to feel comfortable with the program their child is participating in by providing informational materials, inviting them to an orientation session, hosting family events, providing wrap around services, and recognizing families at special events (CNCS, 2010b).


Corporation for National and Community Service. (2005). Building active citizens: The role of social institutions in teen volunteering. Brief 1 in the Youth Helping America series. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/05_1130_LSA_YHA_study.pdf (PDF, 24 Page)

Corporation for National and Community Service. (2010b). Engaging families in service: Why it matters. Retrieved from http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/yes/how_engage.html

Corporation for National and Community Service. Presidential Council on Service and Civic Participation. (2010c). Recruiting youth from diverse backgrounds: Reaching them where they are. Retrieved from http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/yes/how_recruit.html

Corporation for National and Community Service. Presidential Council on Service and Civic Participation. (2010d). Why serve? Retrieved fromhttp://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/yes/why_serve_2.html

Spring, K., Dietz, N., & Grimm, R. Jr. (2007). Leveling the path to participation: Volunteering and civic engagement among youth from disadvantaged circumstances. Washington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service. http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0406_disad_youth.pdf (PDF, 32 pages)

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