Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Start Them Younger

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Start Them Younger

Article excerpt

VOLUNTEERS

As wealthier nations age, nonprofits are retooling their operations to accommodate an older volunteer workforce. But they would be remiss if they didn't also look for help at the other end of the life span, reports Charlene S. Shannon, an expert in recreation and leisure studies at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. She documents how "younger youth"children between the ages of 8 and 12- are an energetic, useful, yet largely overlooked pool of volunteer labor.

Interviewing younger youth and executive directors at Boys 8c Girls Clubs in Atlantic Canada, Shannon finds that the younger set's needs and strengths are different from those of their slightly older counterparts. For instance, the difficulty that these small volunteers most frequently cite is that their assigned tasks are physically challenging. Dealing with rude people- both peers and older people- is also particularly taxing for them.

But as legions of cookie-peddling Girls Scouts can attest, younger youth are particularly adept at fundraising. They are also well suited for assisting adults in tasks that require minimal responsibility, such as stuffing envelopes and tidying up after events. Helping seniors is also a younger-youth bailiwick.

Recruiting 8- to 12-year-olds maybe easier than coaxing adolescents and adults to volunteer, the study suggests, because they do not have as many responsibilities competing for their time.

Younger youth are also enthusiastic about volunteering: More than one-third of the children in Shannon's study said that they volunteer because they think it's fun. …

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