Starting young: Creating the next generation of volunteers

Charlotte Hill is CEO of Step Up To Serve, leading the #iwill campaign. Before this Charlotte was CEO of UK Youth.

Jessica Taplin is CEO at V Inspired, the nation’s leading youth social action charity. Previously Jessica was also CEO at Get Connected, and head of partnerships and public engagement at the Big Lottery Fund.

Since 2013 a coalition has been building to enable more young people to get involved in activities that make a positive difference in our communities. There are now 700 organisations from the business, education, public and voluntary sectors that have pledged to support the #iwill campaign goal of making social action the norm among young people.

The current situation

Currently 42% of 10-20-year-olds (2016 Youth Social Action Survey, Ipsos MORI) take part in social action across the UK. Through partner action, the #iwill goal is to raise this number to sixty percent by 2020, while ensuring all young people, whatever their background, are able to access opportunities.  Currently fewer young people from lower socio-economic groups take up opportunities – we need to do more collectively to address this.  

V Inspired is a leading #iwill advocate and reaches 500,000 young people online every year, supporting thousands of charities in their mission to find young volunteers. Between 2015 and 2016 almost 22,000 young people applied for volunteering roles via vinspired.com – an appetite to contribute is clearly there. This insight is supported by recent Office for National Statistics figures which show, despite an overall downturn in UK volunteering rates, participation by 16-24-year-olds has increased significantly since the turn of the millennium.

The benefits for young people

Studies by #iwill partners go on to confirm that young people develop a range of vital work and life skills through participation in activities that support their communities. Empathy, resilience, problem-solving, team-working and communications skills are all enhanced through social action. The experiential nature of social action, enables participants to build social capital and an awareness of ‘real-life’ strengths that young people can develop.

There is also a clear link to improved well-being and recent #iwill studies found that life satisfaction is more than 7% higher among young people who take part in social action compared to their peers who don’t.

Now we need to work out more specifically what skills, and in what combination, are most important for young people, so that we can ensure they are getting the best outcome from their limited free time. All too often the journey is one way – the cause or charity need support but they’re not clear on the benefits to the volunteer, or what their motivations are.

Increasing youth volunteering

At V Inspired the plan is to make volunteering opportunities simpler to access for young people and easier to promote for charities through a reinvigorated digital platform. This will provide a more meaningful experience for diverse user groups ranging from large national organisations to grassroots groups, from 11-year-olds volunteering through school, to those looking to enter the job market supported by their volunteering experience.

We want to change the way young people interact with volunteering, by integrating rewards and incentives underpinned by data and insight on social action, so we encourage more young people to get involved in ways that appeal to them.


The foundations for the current trend to become a long-term cultural shift are in place – key organisations across sectors back the #iwill goals, participation is shown to offer a double-benefit and crucially young people themselves want the chance to get involved. There’s a lot more to be done, but we’re excited by recent progress and with growing cross-sector support, feel ready to take on the challenge.

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One Response to Starting young: Creating the next generation of volunteers

  1. We need to change the way youngsters cooperate with volunteering, by coordinating prizes and motivators supported by information and understanding on social activity

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