Should volunteering be rewarded with a prize?

A recent poster advertising for Orange RockCorps has got me thinking about this week’s topic: should volunteering be a means to obtain a tangible reward?

If you haven’t heard about it before, let me explain the concept: young people give four hours of volunteering at any Orange Corps projects across London and in return get one ticket to an exclusive concert at Wembley Arena.

This project is a great way of getting more young people volunteering because it promotes volunteering and doing a good deed in a fun and light-hearted manner.  Also, in a world full of a million distractions, I acknowledge the need for a certain amount of realism when it comes to what attracts people to get volunteering – we all respond to incentives whether it’s Boots Advantage points, Tesco Clubcard rewards or M&S money-off vouchers from just doing our shopping!  So it’s highly understandable that young people respond to incentives and clearly it can and does motivate them to volunteer. But really, the main issue I’m concerned about is whether the charity or organisation involved can get them to engage and commit over the long-term.

If the organisation can’t, then there is a risk attached in that teenagers and young adults will see volunteering just as a way to win gig tickets or similar and not for the purpose of giving time to help others.  This would be a great shame and also put a huge strain on smaller charities that simply can’t afford to pay for those kinds of incentives without a long-term result.

Orange Rockcorps

So how can volunteering organisations engage with young people?  I think it’s about creating meaningful opportunities which enable young people to relate to a specific issue and so achieve a higher level of interest.  If we take an example of a large fun run, an effective way to engage with marshals (a very common, one-off position, which isn’t typically hugely engaging), it would make sense to have a talk before the event including a person who benefits from their volunteering and talks about how the funds collected will change their lives.  In this way, the one-off volunteering can engage people more widely and, as our intern Zippy said aptly before in these pages, “volunteering impacts the person giving as much as does the person or organisation being given to”.

There are so many rewards to volunteering – the fantastic Helper’s High (more of which later, so watch this space!), the social benefits, the romantic benefits, the career benefits – that gig tickets can seem to pale into insignificance. We know that young people do give time without a cash substitution – from the Yoni Jesner Awards that we helped organise in June to the Duke of Edinburgh scheme that our friends and colleagues JLGB organise for older teenagers to the great VScheme at university age that UJS help support and in the near feature JVN hopefully will too. This clearly shows young people can volunteer without an incentive. So it’s all about getting that balance right.  I am not dismissing incentives but do feel they should be used as a springboard to really engage people.

So loyal readers – what do you think of the concept of Orange RockCorps? Do you believe young people will only volunteer to win the concert tickets? Looking at the long-term, will young people continue to volunteer after the concert is over if there is no prize to be won….? How can we motivate young people to commit to volunteering without a cash substitution incentive?

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Categories: Leonie's View

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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  1. Children and Young People NOW! Manifesto – My Verdict… « Kidwarrior's Blog – My view of the big world - August 8, 2011

    […] Should volunteering be rewarded with a prize? (jvnblog.com) […]

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