Creating a volunteering habit that sticks

Blog post   •   Mar 30, 2012 10:17 BST

vInspired wants to get young people excited about volunteering as early as possible. Our life-long habits are developed in our formative years . Some brilliant ... some idiosyncratic (as I will illustrate).

When I was small, my parents didn't have a lot of spare cash. Bringing up three kids wasn't easy on one income, and my parents' generation was brought up to believe that Dad was the breadwinner and Mum looked after the kids. But while I wasn't exactly spoiled during my early years, my parents always made Christmas and birthdays extra special. Uncles, aunts, grandparents and godparents all gave presents or, if struggling for ideas, slipped some money into a birthday card.

Money was exciting: a portal to toys I secretly craved. I checked the envelope of every birthday card scrupulously ... twice ... so I could be certain that I hadn't left any money inside, and my family laughed at the look of mock disappointment on my face when any envelope (which was most of them) remained steadfastly empty.

I must have been about seven, the last time I received any money for my birthday. Yet I still double check every envelope to make sure I haven't missed an unexpected fiver: not just on my birthday ... not just handwritten envelopes ... I even check the gas bill (hangs head in shame).

Habits learned at an early age tend to stick with us.

This explains why vInspired has broadened its activities, now seeking to inspire volunteers as young as 11. If we can make volunteering a challenging and rewarding part of young people's lives through adolescence, how much easier it will be for them to segue into regular volunteering as they transition through adulthood. And how great will it be when they discover the self confidence that comes with volunteering before they face the most disorientating period of their lives?

We have a terrific strategic partnership with The Schools Network, which provides a fantastic opportunity to work with teaching staff across England. We are promoting school-based volunteering initiatives, and can give younger students the recognition they deserve through the vInspired Awards.

Teachers, like parents, play a key role in inspiring and influencing students to adopt a culture of giving (both time and money) and a growing body of evidence shows how positive early experiences of volunteering inspire lifelong participation in communities and society.

Posted by Neil Goulder