Volunteerism is a way of life, and it’s a way of life that is socialized through our interactions with those around us. The path towards being involved in one’s community as an adult begins for most people when they are young. Young people see their parents volunteer, and often young people learn about the importance of volunteering when they serve their community along with their parents and siblings. Young people often get engaged in volunteerism through high school or college programs, or through other organizations that they or their families belong to.
But according to a recent study published earlier this year by the University of Maryland (Robert T., Grimm Jr., and Nathan Dietz. 2018. “Good Intentions, Gap in Action: The Challenge of Translating Youth’s High Interest in Doing Good into Civic Engagement.” Research Brief: Do Good Institute, University of Maryland), current volunteer participation rates among young people have recently declined.
The University of Maryland study had a number of important findings about volunteerism today among young people, two of which we found concerning. The first important finding was that “Despite 51-year highs among entering college students in their desire to engage in their community, volunteering among high school and college students has declined since the early 2000s and remained relatively low and stagnant for the last decade.” Second, “Surprisingly, college students volunteer less frequently than high school students.”
Unfortunately, there’s not a good explanation as to why volunteerism among young people is declining, especially in a social, economic, and political context where the value of community engagement is quite clear. In a situation where the data are telling us that on one hand young people want to be engaged in their communities, but they are not, there is likely something structural going on that is either preventing their engagement, or perhaps making their engagement less meaningful.
Clearly we need to solve this problem. If young people today are not participating in volunteer efforts at a high rate, that means there simply are fewer volunteers to help solve important community problems today than in the past. This could also have important long-term ramifications: if the current generation of young people are not being socialized in the important norm of volunteerism, later in life these current cohorts of young people may be less active in their communities than past generations.
This is where applications like Magnify can help. Magnify provides an easy way for everyone to get involved in volunteering to help solve community problems, and it does so using the types of technologies that young people in particular are so familiar with. Magnify provides meaningful community engagement, free from polarized rhetoric.
If you know a young person who is looking for a way to get involved in solving community problems, send them our way. If you run an organization that is looking to engage young people, drop us a note and we’ll help you out. We need to work together to help engage young people in our communities, and tools like Magnify can help increase the rate of volunteerism among young people.