Two weeks ago I presented a plenary session to the Hospice UK retail conference on youth volunteering. Statistics recently released show that only 13% of the volunteers are under 25, lower than it was five years ago. But according to the BBC, there’s been a 52% increase in youth volunteering in that time. So why are young people choosing not to volunteer in charity shops?
Working with a youth charity, we commissioned some research into why young people don’t volunteer in charity shops and we had some interesting responses. A key one was that it’s not cool to shop or volunteer in a charity shop – the look and feel of the shop, the stock and the people don’t reflect young people and the shops they prefer. This is connected to a fear of rejection – some young people don’t feel they will be welcomed or accepted. On top of this, they may feel they can’t commit the hours the shop might want them to work, and they think they won’t get anything back, such as formal recognition for their work.
So how do we change this?
- Firstly, you need to create roles that young people will be interested in, such as visual merchandising volunteer, events planner and social media champion.
- Make sure you reflect young people in your publications, newsletters and any imagery in volunteer materials.
- Start holding joining and exit interviews to find out why young people come and go so you can identify ways to improve recruitment and retention.
- Think about where you advertise volunteer vacancies. Do you use colleges and universities, and social media?
- If you don’t offer training for your shop managers on equality and diversity, then start doing this now. All of your team need to understand why it’s important to recruit and retain volunteers from diverse backgrounds, so it’s essential they value young volunteers as much as you do.
- Get involved in youth volunteering campaigns – join in BBC Radio 1’s pledge to get young people volunteering 1 million hours http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0387cft
And why should you do all of this? Young people will safeguard your charity’s future, they have a vast amount to give – time and skills, they’re experts in new technology, video creation, social media, they bring a fresh and youthful dynamic to your shop and like attracts like – they bring more young volunteers, young customers and young donors to further increase the reach and value of your charity.