Young volunteers more likely to volunteer again but less likely to donate, study finds

The Cabinet Office-funded research shows that participation in social action projects motivated a desire to volunteer in the future, but had the opposite effect on the desire to give to charity

Young volunteers: likely to volunteer again, less so to donate
Young volunteers: likely to volunteer again, less so to donate

Young people who take part in volunteer projects are more willing to participate in volunteering again but less likely to donate to charity, new research shows.

Evaluating Youth Social Action, an interim report published by the Cabinet Office, shows that although the effects of taking part in social action projects in the past strongly motivates a desire to volunteer in the future, volunteering has the opposite effect on people’s desire to give to charity.

The study, which was funded by the Cabinet Office and carried out by Michael Sanders and Natalia Emanuel from the Behavioural Insights Team and Elspeth Kirkman, head of the Behavioural Insights Team North America, focused on more than 1,400 young people, about half of whom were participating in volunteer projects funded by the Cabinet Office.

In a behavioural trial conducted on a sub-group of about 100 young people who took part in projects run by the education charity the Citizenship Foundation, participants were given four 50p pieces and told to decide in private whether they would like to keep the money for themselves or donate it to the British Red Cross.

The trial found that those who had taken part in the initiative donated an average of 16 per cent less per person to the charity than a similar number of their peers who had not taken part in the Citizenship Foundation projects.

The report on the study says this could be down to a "licensing effect", whereby the young people who had volunteered felt they had already done something good and thus deserved to keep the money for themselves. It could alternatively be because of the children’s conception of the relative values of giving time and of giving money, the report says.

The study also involved three behavioural trials – conducted on young people participating in volunteer projects run by the Citizenship Foundation, the youth empowerment charity Envision and the voluntary action charity Imago respectively – to determine how volunteering affected young people’s willingness to volunteer in the future in their own communities and in other countries.

The volunteers for all three organisations indicated they were more willing to learn more about helping people in their communities than their peers who had not volunteered, while the volunteers for Envision and IMAGO were also more willing to learn more about helping people in other countries.

Volunteering for the Citizenship Foundation programme had no effect on young people’s willingness to volunteer overseas, the study found.

Susannah Birkwood

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