Releases Data on Teen Volunteers and How to Better Engage Them

Young People Want to Make a Difference but Care More about Hanging with Friends than Changing the World

Oct 24, 2012, 10:00 ET from

NEW YORK, Oct. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --, the largest U.S. organization for teens and social change, releases "The Index on Young People & Volunteering 2012: The Year of Friends with Benefits" today.

Ninety three percent of teens say they want to volunteer; but a far smaller percentage of young people actually do volunteer. This Index exposes why some teens and college students volunteer and why some don't, and gives insight into how to close that gap.

The report includes data on 13 – 22 year olds, but it is the first comprehensive national survey of teens and volunteering that incorporates respondents as young as 13 – 15 years old. It is also the first study to reveal the #1 factor driving volunteering for this age group is having friends who volunteer (75.9% of those whose friends volunteer on a regular basis also volunteer).

"The most surprising data we found is the revealed reason why young people volunteer," says Bob Filbin, data scientist and author of the study. "Having friends who volunteer regularly is the primary factor – and it's nearly twice as important as whether there is a social issue they care about deeply. Peer pressure in its finest form! Organizations will attract more teens by inviting them to have fun with friends while making a difference rather than just pushing the do-gooder aspect alone."

Conducted by two of the three leading international survey research companies, Survey Sampling International (SSI) and Research Now (RN), the survey collected 4,363 valid responses from 13 – 22 year olds in the U.S. to determine trends in volunteering and behavior. Some findings include:

  • Teens are good at asking for money and love animals. Fundraising is the #1 way young people volunteer and animal welfare is the #1 cause
  • Texters are more likely to volunteer. Over 52% of young people who spend most of their time communicating with friends via text also volunteer
  • Mallrats and movie buffs are more likely to volunteer. Young people who go to the movie theater or the mall between one and three times a month are 22% and 26% (respectively) more likely to volunteer than those who don't
  • Volunteering = happy teens. Young people who volunteer are 24% more satisfied with their lives than those who do not volunteer
  • Volunteers make the grade. Young people who volunteer get better grades – 48% get A's (and we know from previous research, admissions officers at top U.S. colleges and universities indicate long-term commitment to a cause or organization is very important)
  • It's a state of mind. Volunteering rates for young people are highest in the Northeast (59.6%) and lowest in the South (50.9%)

The 34 page report includes charts to help organizations target teen volunteers by activity and group, as well as a checklist on how to better engage young volunteers by making activities social, accessible, familiar, brief, beneficial to volunteers, and more.

"Overall, this data shows volunteering is a microcosm of a teen's social world," says Filbin. "With a major focus on hanging with friends, followed by texting and keeping a flexible schedule, teens' priorities seem to spill over into their volunteer life. The sooner organizations, clubs and teachers start to think this way about planning their volunteer activities, the more successful they'll be in engaging this age group."

The full "The Index on Young People & Volunteering 2012: The Year of Friends with Benefits" can be downloaded here. is sharing this report so organizations, schools, companies, and more have the tools to unlock the power of young people.

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