Youth service fuels charity

Youth is a driving force in American philanthropy, a new report says.

Americans who volunteer when young are more generous adult donors and volunteers than are those who don’t volunteer when young, says the report by Independent Sector and Youth Service America.

Parent volunteers also are more likely to inspire their children to volunteer, and parents who volunteered when young are more likely to volunteer with their children, says the report, Engaging Youth in Lifelong Service.

And families in which adults and children volunteer are more generous than families with no volunteers.

To encourage more volunteerism by young people, the report says, nonprofits need to overcome hurdles to involvement by young people.

“The clear message of Independent Sector’s research is that the future of individual nonprofit organizations, the volunteer sector and society as a whole depends on young people finding meaningful opportunities to serve,” Silvia Golembek, vice president for programs at Youth Service America, says in the report.

“If adults who volunteered as children contribute more of their time and money to charitable organizations than those who did not have service experience in childhood,” she says, “then plainly an investment in today’s youth volunteers is an investment in the future.”

The report says 44 percent of adults volunteer, and two-thirds of those volunteers began volunteering when young.

Adults who began volunteering when young are twice as likely as those who did not to volunteer as they get older, the report says.

Sixty-one percent of adult volunteers ages 36 to 40 volunteered as youngsters, compared to 39 percent of adult volunteers who did not.

Households in which adults volunteered when young give slightly more than households in which the adults did not start giving until they were adults.

Households with annual income ranging from $25,000 to $49,000, for example, donate $1,124 a year on average, compared to $802 donated by households in which the adults were not active when young.

Nearly 60 percent of adults who volunteered in their youth had parents who volunteered, while 70 percent of adults who volunteered when young now volunteer with their children.

Families in which adults and youngsters volunteer donate $2,895 a year on average, compared to $1,576 donated by households in which no one volunteers.

After first growing in the early 1960s during the Great Society programs of the Johnson administration, the report says, youth participation fell during the Vietnam War and the late 1970s, then has grown in the last 20 years, peaking in 1992 to 1996 with two of every three young people volunteering.

The report also recommends steps nonprofits can take to eliminate barriers to involvement by young people, including changing an organizational “mindset” that limits participation by young people.

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