University students’ level of volunteerism bucks national trend

By Dale Johnson Posted: November 17, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Cory Kulczycki says while volunteering is declining overall, it’s increasing among post-secondary students.
Cory Kulczycki says while volunteering is declining overall, it’s increasing among post-secondary students. Photo: U of R Photography

When Cory Kulczycki, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, was developing a course in Volunteer Management, he discovered there was very little material about volunteering in Saskatchewan.

“I like to have current and local information and examples within my course content,” Kulczycki explains.

So he decided to do some research. He wanted to find out post-secondary students’ perceptions and experiences about volunteering.  It just so happened that Special Olympics Saskatchewan – where volunteers are vital for the organization’s programming and services – was looking at how to create an inclusive environment for volunteers and ways to attract post-secondary students.

Korinne Lott with Special Olympics Saskatchewan wanted to find out how to attract post-secondary students as volunteers. Photo courtesy of Korrine Lott

Kulczycki and Korrine Lott, Community Coordinator at Special Olympics Saskatchewan, joined forces to carry out research into what motivates post-secondary students to volunteer, and how to attract and retain volunteers. The project was conducted during the 2016-17 academic year, and the results of the research have just been released.

“Current research indicates that there is a downturn in volunteering, in general, however, results for 2017 from Statistics Canada reported an increase in volunteering amongst post-secondary students,” Kulczycki says.

Among the key findings of volunteers at the post-secondary level in Saskatchewan:

Top three reasons for volunteering:

-    “I volunteer because I feel it is important to help others.”

-    “I volunteer because I can do something for a cause that is important to me.”

-    “I volunteer because I can learn how to deal with a variety of people.”

Top three reasons why post-secondary students are reluctant to volunteer:

-    “I have a limited budget.”

-    “I have too many other commitments.”

-    “I am unaware of opportunities to volunteer.”

Top three reasons for being more likely to continue to volunteer with an organization:

-    respects and treats their volunteers well

-    provides a positive experience

-    recognizes the contributions made by volunteers

Top three types of organizations where post-secondary students are most likely to volunteer:

-    not-for-profit organizations, like Special Olympics Saskatchewan

-    sports organizations

-    human services (for example, seniors' centres)

“The results highlight important issues and perceptions that need to be addressed when interacting with volunteers, including respect and support,” says Kulczycki.

His advice for organizations hoping to attract volunteers from the post-secondary sector: “Volunteer coordinators need to establish a welcoming environment that supports students’ schedules and lifestyle, which might include periods of non-volunteering time.”