Volunteer work has an important role in today’s overburdened welfare state. As the population is aging and the welfare state does not have the resources to upkeep the increasingly bureaucratic service sector, the third sector is expected to supplement the missing obligations. Interest towards volunteering has increased considerably, but young people do not usually commit to volunteering on the same scale as other demographics.
Since volunteering has been shown to be beneficial for both the society and the volunteer, it would be important to encourage the youth to participate in volunteering. Citizen Forum (Kansalaisareena) launched the Jeesaan – Young people in volunteering -project (2017-2019), which inspires the youth to participate in volunteer work. The project offers a volunteer work course to students as a part of their high school and vocational school education.
As a marketing student in Hanken School of Economics, I participated in the Jeesaan -project as a researcher. The role of marketing has increased in our society and it has a large interdisciplinary utilizing potential. I studied the project from a social marketing point of view for my thesis. Social marketing applies traditional marketing theories for marketing ideas, attitudes, and behavior. While commercial marketers aim for high revenues, social marketers try to improve the society with their actions. From the social marketing point of view, the goal of the Jeesaan -project is to get the target group to adopt a new behavior – volunteering. Therefore, volunteering can be promoted and young students can be encouraged to volunteer using the tools of social marketing.
Social marketing helps create free, equitable, and lasting societies. It also functions as a strategic tool in planning different projects and ensuring, recognizing, and measuring the results and effects. For my research, I first created a theoretical model that can also be applied to other social marketing projects. I interviewed young people who participated in the Jeesaan course and youth, who had otherwise shown their interest in volunteering. I also collected data at the Volunteer Fair and by utilizing the media tool Meltwater.
The results showed that young students have the desire and many altruistic motives for volunteering, but they lack the initiative to take the opportunities. Thus, we need social marketing projects such as the Jeesaan -project. According to the youth, obstacles for volunteering are lack of time, being underage, long distances, and lack of money and information. Young people felt that in order to participate in volunteering, they would need more initiative, courage, self-confidence, and personal charm. According to them, the most important skills for volunteers are social skills, having initiative, adaptability, open mind, courage, and sincere wish to help. Citizen Forum helps the youth with these challenges and with developing the necessary skills.
Just as their previous volunteering experiences, the current volunteering tasks of the interviewees were very different. Some of the students found meaningful activities on their own through hobbies, while the rest were thankful for the help they received from the Jeesaan -project in finding suitable and meaningful volunteering opportunities. The students reported that time was the biggest sacrifice they made because of volunteering. In return, they said that they felt good and gained meaning to their lives, new experiences, social skills, self-confidence, valuable work experience, new skills, understanding, new friends and contacts, something fun to do, and balance to everyday life.
Young people can be taught and encouraged to volunteer through schools. Organizations such as Citizen Forum can support the youth and encourage everyone to find “the Right Thing” for them. Marketing, on the other hand, brings efficiency and determination to the projects. All the young people who participated in the study had a positive image of volunteering and they would like to volunteer in the future as well.
Text: Daniela Sumelius
Translation: Satu Puolitaival