Why Is Volunteerism Among College Students Declining?

Monday I posted about a college student volunteer-based nonprofit organization. This is one several that exist here at West Virginia University. This would make you think that college student volunteerism is on the rise. However, that’s not the case. The most recent volunteering information released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that volunteering slightly declined from 2011 to 2012. The rate declined by 0.3 percent. This number may seem small, but is this the start of a trend?

Nearly 64.5 million Americans volunteered for some organization at least once last year, but that number is slowly going down. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people may only volunteer just once a year, which many would argue is not enough to make an impact.

Surprisingly, the least likely people to volunteer are between the ages of 16 and 29 years of age. College students are always talking about how volunteering can boost there resume, so why aren’t they taking advantage? There are less service-oriented major requirements in colleges today which results in a decline in the number of college students who volunteer reflecting an overall decline in volunteerism nationally. In 2010, only about 26 percent of  U.S. college students volunteered.

So what’s the reason for this decline? Is it a generation thing? Is it that we’re too caught up in our own busy lives to care about others?

  • Not Enough Money to Donate. Many people, especially young people are afraid to volunteer for a nonprofit because they can’t afford to donate a lot of money. They fail to realize that often times organizations need much more than money. They need time, effort, and services that many people have to offer, but don’t think is useful. The task could be something as simple as stuffing envelopes or answering phones, but it makes a difference for an organization and requires no money. Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean donating.
  • Lack of Time. With a rise in tuition, many students are forced to spend their extra time getting jobs to pay for college and daily life expenses. This is time they could spend volunteering otherwise. Older adults also worry about time constraints because of their families. Many people, especially those with small children, feel as though they cannot devote an adequate amount of time to an organization.
  • There’s no incentive. There shouldn’t have to be an incentive to want to help others, but it certainly helps. Make sure your volunteer is passionate about your organization. Offer something for your volunteer, even if it’s just a good recommendation letter. Allow them to gain experience by including them in decision making and giving them more to do than merely stuffing envelopes or taking out the trash.

Locally, we have over 400 nonprofits right here in Morgantown. West Virginia University provides ample opportunity for all college students to get involved. WVU has an entire program based on volunteering. The website showcases a variety of diverse opportunities available to help students get involved with local nonprofit organizations as well as national ones. Volunteering once may not seem like enough to matter, but every minute of time and effort helps a small organization.


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