As a young volunteer supervisor, it is important to understand what motivates young people to volunteer. This understanding will help your organisation find ways to attract and encourage volunteers who will be a good fit with your organisation and add value to your work.

Motivation for volunteering can be classified into esteem; recognition; social affiliation; values of giving, sharing and public service career pathing. There is often more than one source of motivation that encourages young people to do volunteer work. Moreover, the motivation that encourages a young person to start volunteering might change once he/she starts volunteering. It is useful to identify the specific motivation that each youth volunteer has when trying to accommodate them in your organisation.

When young people were asked why they volunteer, this is what they said:

  • There are opportunities for learning.
  • We can help people in need.
  • I will have some experience to put on my CV.
  • We give give service to the community out of our own free will.
  • Listening to elders and feeding hungry children is useful.
  • I can acquire new skills for employment.
  • With this experience I could find a paying job.

There are thus many different reasons that people have for volunteering. Whatever their reasons are, volunteering will always have a positive effect on the well-being of young people, especially if they find satisfaction in their involvement and when their motivations and expectations for volunteering are met. However, this can only be achieved if your organisation provides the necessary support, proper orientation, training, coaching, mentoring and supervision while youth volunteers are carrying out their tasks. One of the major reasons for people to terminate their volunteer engagement is because they do not feel that they are of use to their host organisation, or do not get the necessary level of support and encouragement.

Every organisation also has its own reasons for wanting to host volunteers. It is important, therefore, for both volunteers and host organisations to be open and honest about their motivations and expectations so that there can be common ground between them.