Nearly Half of Youth Say They’re Interested in Volunteering More – As Long As Someone Shows Them the Way

With American volunteerism at record low, new Allstate Foundation survey finds almost half of youth don’t understand what charities do, what volunteer options are available to them
Apr 14, 2016 5:55 AM ET
Press Release

NORTHBROOK, Ill., April 14, 2016 /3BL Media/ – Nearly half of America’s youth say a little coaching would encourage them to volunteer more, according to a new survey released today by The Allstate Foundation. The survey, which also provides insights into what inspires volunteerism among youth – and the different attitudes youth and adults have toward giving back – comes on the heels of an annual study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that reported the lowest U.S. volunteer rate in the study’s 14-year history.[1]

The first-ever Allstate Foundation Volunteer Week Survey reveals that turning the numbers around – at least for those ages 12-17 – might be as easy as educating them on the basics of volunteering. Almost half (48 percent) of youth say a better understanding of what charities do would inspire them to volunteer more. And nearly the same amount (46 percent) say having a better grasp of the volunteer options available to them would have the same effect.

“Youth are hungry for volunteer opportunities,” said Vicky Dinges, senior vice president, corporate responsibility, Allstate Insurance Company. “To build long-lasting connections to giving back, we must engage our youth at a young age. At Allstate, we believe good starts young. Resources like WE Volunteer Now provide youth with opportunities to plan and lead volunteer activities to improve their communities and the world around them. Giving back is an amazing experience that, with a little encouragement, can become a lifelong passion.”

Released to coincide with National Volunteer Week April 10-16, The Allstate Foundation Volunteer Week Survey polled more than 1,000 youth ages 12-17 and more than 1,000 adults ages 18 and older.[2] The survey was conducted as part of WE Volunteer Now, an initiative of WE Day made possible by The Allstate Foundation. This year, WE Volunteer Now grants totaling $80,000 were given to 250 schools and youth groups across the country. The grants help fund volunteer project costs, such as paint to help refurbish a classroom or flowers to beautify a community park.

Connecting students with volunteer opportunities at an early age – and showing them how their work helps others – may help bridge the gap identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics study, Dinges said.

Youth, Adults Report Different Motivations for Volunteering

The Bureau of Labor Statistics study found just under a quarter (24.9 percent) of the population volunteered from September 2014 to September 2015, the first time that number fell below the 25 percent mark since the Bureau started reporting volunteerism data in 2002. Last year marked the fifth straight year in which that figure decreased.

While it may be a simple education issue that’s holding back youth from volunteering, adults say it’s convenience that’s keeping them from donating their time – despite the fact they feel a much stronger personal obligation to give back.

The Allstate Foundation survey found volunteers’ motivation changes after high school age:

  • The younger the volunteer, the more important it is for them to see the reactions of those they help: More than a third (34 percent) of youth ages 12-14 say that’s their strongest intrinsic motivation, a number that drops steadily to just 14 percent in the 55-and-older group.
  • While adults are inspired to volunteer by the potential networking opportunities (25 percent) and the chance to be more visible in the community (22 percent), youth are more than twice as likely as adults to crave external accolades for their efforts, such as rewards and recognition from school, work or their families.
  • More than a quarter (28 percent) of those under 18 say their strongest external motivator is job- or school-related, such as student recognition or scholarship opportunities – and 18 percent say they do it because it’s a requirement. Almost one in five youth (19 percent) say they volunteer for approval from parents or family.
  • The biggest driver for both youth (42 percent) and adults (41 percent) to volunteer is the satisfaction they get knowing they’re helping someone and making a difference. Nearly a quarter of adults (24 percent) say their personal obligation to give back is the strongest internal reason they give their time.
  • More than any other age range, adults 18-34 are motivated by the feeling that volunteering allows them to forge a stronger connection to their communities.
  • Both youth and adults are more internally than externally motivated to volunteer.

About The Allstate Foundation
Established in 1952, The Allstate Foundation is an independent, charitable organization made possible by subsidiaries of The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL). Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the country, The Allstate Foundation brings the relationships, reputation and resources of Allstate to support innovative and lasting solutions that enhance people’s well-being and prosperity. With a focus on building financial independence for domestic violence survivors, empowering youth and celebrating the charitable community involvement of Allstate agency owners and employees, The Allstate Foundation works to bring out the good in people’s lives. For more information, visit

About WE Volunteer Now
WE Volunteer Now, an initiative of WE Day made possible by The Allstate Foundation, challenges youth to team up with their friends to brainstorm, plan and lead volunteer activities that bring out the good in their communities. It is one of nine campaigns made available through WE Day’s yearlong educational program, WE Schools. The free program gives educators tools to help broaden their students’ understanding of world issues and determine how to take action. For more information on WE Volunteer Now, or how to register for WE Schools, visit

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[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Volunteering in the United States, 2015

[2] The Allstate Volunteer Week Survey polled 1,008 adults ages 18+ and 1,006 youth ages 12-17. The online survey was conducted by Chicago-based Ipsos Public Affairs between March 23 and March 28.