‘Why Do Students Volunteer?’ – New Report Investigates

Earlier this week CAF’s Growing Giving site looked at Student Volunteering Week 2014 and how it is encouraging more students to volunteer in support of good causes. To coincide with Student Volunteering Week, NUS published ‘The Student Volunteering Landscape,’ a report which shines a light on the scale of student volunteering in the UK, and illustrates just how many generous students are.

Research conducted for the report found that over 725,000 students currently volunteer, which amounts to 31 per cent of all students. In addition, more than two-thirds of students who currently do not volunteer said that they would be interested in doing so in the future. The total amount that student volunteers contribute to the economy is estimated at £175 million annually. Although there are students who do not volunteer, this is typically because of a lack of time rather than because they are hostile towards charity.

Students who do volunteer are most likely to do so because they want to improve things or help people (78 per cent), with two-thirds (66 per cent) seeing volunteering as a way of developing their skills. There is still a reliance on word of mouth to promote opportunities, with 48 per cent of students hearing about volunteering opportunities through their friends and family, followed by 39 per cent finding out through their place of study.

Interestingly, students are most likely to become interested in volunteering at primary and secondary school (38 per cent), who demonstrates the value of ensuring that children are given the opportunity to learn about charity at a young age. This follows research carried out by CAF which found that young people and teachers are both keen to use opportunities in schools to educate more young people about charity, and shows that the classroom should be used to get more people informed about giving.

Students are keen to take part in activities that allow them to develop their skills, and 51 per cent reported that they have organised or helped to run an activity or an event. Many have also taken part in fundraising activities, and almost a third (32 per cent) have experienced leading a group or being a member of a committee. It appears that students relish the opportunity to take on roles of responsibility when it comes to giving, and opportunities need to be created to allow them to continue developing the ownership of their charitable giving once they finish their studies.

Young people also hold strong views about the type of organisations that they want to support, with 56 per cent choosing school or education institutions, 56 per cent choosing a local charity and 40 per cent wanting to act in support of a local branch of a national charity. The importance of giving people the opportunity to influence who they support can be a highly motivating factor for driving engagement, as Morrison’s explain at the Giving at Work evidence session, and anecdotal evidence suggests that people are especially keen to raise money in support of a local, visible cause.

In addition, young people are keen to get something back from their giving, and forty per cent of students said that linking volunteering opportunities to their course of qualifications would encourage them to do more. This concurs with evidence heard by the Growing Giving Inquiry, where young people were keen to stress the importance of ensuring that they derive personal development from their participation in social action.

Creating a giving culture that promotes concepts of reciprocity is crucial if more people are to be encouraged to give their time. Staff at universities agree, with many arguing that students should be encouraged to volunteer because of the transferable skills it will give them that they can highlight as they enter the job market. Demonstrating a commitment to social action is a great way that young people can differentiate themselves from other candidates and highlight the additional skills that they have gained as a result.

Students were also keen to stress that volunteering can be used as a way to build better relationships with the community, and reinforces the findings of a report last week that found a difference in the way that young people are portrayed in the media, and the how they are perceived by those who deal with them on a regular basis. A stronger culture of volunteering amongst students is an excellent way of bringing town and gown closer together.

The full report is well worth a read for anyone with an interest in the ways that young people support charity, and provides an insight into the reasons underpinning a student’s decision to get involved with giving. More still can be done to reach out to those who aren’t currently engaged, and in the next couple of months the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving will be producing recommendations looking at how we can strengthen the UK’s giving culture. Keep an eye on the Growing Giving website to find out what’s being proposed and what ideas are put forward to encourage more people to grow up giving.
Steve Clapperton

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