October 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 5 // Commentary // 5COM2
Perceived Influence of Selected Factors On Decision of High School 4-H Youth to Volunteer
The author observes that volunteerism has never been strong in the parish 4-H program with which he works. A study was designed to identify factors influencing teens to volunteer. Findings from the study parallel findings from a 1996 survey, conducted for the Independent Sector, that sheds some light on the volunteering behavior of American teenagers. Recommendations include incorporating factors identified in the local and national studies in a plan that will motivate youth to volunteer and to volunteer in a continuing manner. Further research in teen volunteerism should identify additional factors influencing youth to volunteer.
During 17 years as an Extension professional in East Feliciana, the author has come to believe that volunteerism has never been strong in the parish 4-H program. Some individuals and clubs have, from time to time, conducted commendable community service activities, such as visiting nursing homes or collecting trash along one of the highways. But they all were one-time attempts or they didn't last beyond a year. There were no long-term plans for continued service.
The author has arrived at a point in his career and life where volunteerism has become a priority. If he can identify what motivates teens to volunteer, he can work the information into a program of change.
A study was designed to identify factors influencing teens to volunteer. The study was conducted (a) to provide demographic data on the respondents, and (b) to describe the effects selected factors had on high school teens' decisions to volunteer.
The literature on volunteers and volunteering is overwhelming. Information on teen volunteering is more recent and continuing to be gathered. However, a 1996 study conducted for the Independent Sector by the Gallup Organization (1996) does shed some light on the volunteering behavior of American teenagers. From that study, the most important reasons teens sited for volunteering were (a) compassion toward people in need (84%); (b) can do something for a cause that is important to me (84%); (c) volunteering allows me to gain a new perspective on things (74%); (d) if I help others, then someone will help me (73%); and (e) volunteering is important to the people that I respect (73%).
Two high school 4-H clubs (the only two in the parish) with a total of 65 youth were selected as the study group. A survey instrument, using information from the Independent Sector Survey, was administered on separate occasions to the young people. Youth were asked to respond to nine demographic questions and to the level of effect 35 individual factors had on their decision to volunteer.
Respondents were asked to report the highest level of education (see Table 1). Most of the respondents were 9th graders. The next largest group of respondents were 10th graders.
Levels of Education of High School 4-H Youth
Respondents were asked to indicate their age at the time of the survey. Participants in this sample were predominantly 14-15 years of age. Table 2 provides a summary of the age distribution.
Age At Time of Survey of High School 4 -H Youth
|Age in Years||Frequency||Percent|
|Note: There were 3 non-responses to this question.|
Thirty-eight of the respondents or 58.5% were female and 27 or 41.5% were male.
Fifty-five (84.6%) of the respondents were black; one (1.5%) was Hispanic; 8 (12.3%) were white; and one (1.5%) was Asian.
Occupation of Father
Eighteen (27.7%) of the respondents indicated manufacturing/industry as the occupation of their father; seven (10.8%) indicated business owner/manager; five (7.7%) indicated service sector employee; four (6.2%) indicated homemaker; one (1.5%) indicated teaching profession; and twenty-four (36.9%) indicated other. Six of the respondents gave no indication of their father's occupations.
Occupation of Mother
Twelve (18.5%) of the respondents indicated homemaker as the occupation of their mother; ten (15.4%) indicated service sector employee; ten (15.4%) indicated teaching profession; five (7.7%) indicated business owner/manager; three (4.6%) indicated manufacturing/industry; and 21 (32.3%) indicated other. Four of the respondents gave no indication of their mother's occupations.
Previous Volunteer Work
Thirty-six (55.4%) indicated they had volunteered in the previous 12-months while 29 (44.6%) indicated they had not. If respondents had volunteered in the past twelve months, 23 (35.4%) indicated they did so without being asked, and 12 (18.5%) did so after being asked; 30 (46.1%) gave no indication.
Kinds of Volunteer Work
If they had volunteered in the previous 12 months, respondents were asked to provide the kind of volunteer work they had done and the amount of time they devoted to the work. Twenty-eight (77.7%) responded to this question and listed volunteer work such as fund raisers (5 hours devoted), helping the elderly, collecting trash (1 hour), church service (1 hours), neighborhood service, helping family members, school service (3 hours), babysitting (5 hours), volunteer firefighters (12 hours), visiting the nursing home, assisting the 4-H program, and tutoring.
Perceived Influence of Selected Factors on the Decision of High School 4-H Youth to Volunteer
Respondents were asked to indicate the level of importance (or level of effect) that various factors had on their decision to volunteer. Table 3 presents overall means and standard deviations (in descending order of the mean importance value) for each of the identified factors that influence respondents to volunteer. The scale of importance used was a 0 to 7 scale labeled with none, low, moderate, and high (effects) respectively. A mean of <1 indicated no effect; a mean of 1.00 - 2.99, a low effect; a mean of 3.00 - 5.99, a moderate effect; and a mean of 6.00 - 7.00, a high effect.
All of the selected factors were in the moderate effect category (3.00 - 5.99). The five highest factors influencing respondents to volunteer included (1) challenge of something new (mean = 5.52, sd = 1.62); (2) to learn respect for others (mean = 5.50, sd = 2.05); (3) to learn to be helpful and kind (mean = 5.43, sd = 1.72); (4) to improve school grades/do better in school (mean = 5.36, sd = 2.28); and (5) to develop new career goals (mean = 5.31, sd =2.04). The factor having the least importance was racial/cultural composition of community (mean = 4.02), sd = 2.23).
Perceived Influence of Selected Factors
on the Decision of High School 4-H Youth to Volunteer
|Challenge of something new||5.52||1.62||ME|
|To learn respect for others||5.50||2.05||ME|
|To learn to be helpful and kind||5.43||1.72||ME|
|To improve school grades/do better in school||5.36||2.28||ME|
|To develop new career goals||5.31||2.04||ME|
|To explore or learn about career options||5.24||1.94||ME|
|Compassion toward people in need||5.23||1.86||ME|
|To understand people who are
different from me
|Desire for experience||5.20||1.88||ME|
|To do something for an important cause||5.18||2.00||ME|
|To improve mental image of myself||5.13||2.09||ME|
|Amount of personal freedom||5.13||1.89||ME|
|To learn how to get along with others||5.07||2.23||ME|
|To gain satisfaction from helping others||5.03||2.15||ME|
|Nearness of friends and relatives||5.00||1.98||ME|
|"If I help others, someone will help me"||4.98||2.17||ME|
|To develop interpersonal relationships||4.77||1.90||ME|
|To develop social skills||4.72||2.09||ME|
|Availability of transportation||4.72||2.26||ME|
|Prestige of your position in group||4.61||2.03||ME|
|'Volunteer experience will look good on
|Child care responsibilities||4.54||2.27||ME|
|To gain a new perspective on things||4.51||2.10||ME|
|Religious composition of community||4.42||2.19||ME|
|To fulfill an ambition/satisfy my ego||4.28||2.29||ME|
|Prestige of the group||4.22||2.16||ME|
|Sensitivity to criticism||4.20||2.36||ME|
|Preference for geographical area||4.19||2.13||ME|
|Racial/cultural composition of community||4.02||2.23||ME|
Note: Mean values based on response scale:|
none, low, moderate, high with choices of 0-7.
Note: Response categories based on the following scale|
established by researcher:
NE - no effect = <1.00, LE - low effect= 1.00 to 2.99,
ME - moderate effect = 3.00 to 5.99, HE - high effect = 6.00 to 7.00.
The purpose of this study was to identify factors influencing teens to volunteer. The study was conducted to provide demographic data on the respondents and to describe the effects selected factors had on high school teens' decisions to volunteer.
Sixty-five youth, enrolled in two high school 4-H clubs, were asked to respond to nine demographic questions and to the level of effect 35 individual factors had on their decision to volunteer. The highest factors influencing respondents to volunteer included (a) challenge of something new; (b) to learn respect for others; (c) to learn to be helpful and kind; (d) improve school grades/do better in school; and (e) to develop new career goals.
4-H has always emphasized community service. The ideas of stewardship and leadership are emphasized in 4-H literature and thought. This study proves useful to the 4-H program in East Feliciana because it identifies factors that influence teens to volunteer, and when youth volunteer, they will hopefully embrace the ideas of stewardship and leadership.
Findings from this study show that high school 4-H youth in East Feliciana parish do volunteer. These findings, the author feels, also parallel findings from the Independent Sector Survey (1996). For example, the challenge of something new corresponds to gaining a new perspective on things. To learn respect for others relates to learned respect for others, a benefit gained from volunteering, reported by the Independent Sector. To learn to be helpful and kind corresponds to learned to be helpful and kind, another benefit reported by the Independent Sector. To improve school grades/do better in school, is similar to "I did better in school/grades improved", a third benefit reported. And to develop new career goals relates to developed new career goals, again another benefit reported.
Based on the findings, conclusions, and implications of this study, the author recommends that the factors identified in this study be incorporated in a plan that will motivate youth and clubs in the East Feliciana 4-H program or any other youth program to volunteer in a continuing manner. He also recommends further research in teen volunteerism that will identify additional factors influencing youth to volunteer or will make comparisons between demographic characteristics and factors influencing teens to volunteer.
Independent Sector (1996). Research on Teens Volunteering and Philanthropy. Available on Internet: www.IndependentSector.org