Good turns – from old-school to TikTok

If you are looking to get the younger generation interested in voluntary work, the cause is not the only factor that counts. You also need to find the right way to communicate with young people and offer a level of involvement that appeals.

‘Are you Team Coffee or Team Maté?’ young­Ca­ri­tas asks on its Insta­gram chan­nel. Anyone looking to inte­rest the next gene­ra­tion in their volun­t­ary work projects needs to hang out on the right chan­nels. ‘It’s vital to us to have a good social media presence,’ explains Nora Engler, project mana­ger at young­Ca­ri­tas. In NGOs, old-school ideas on commu­ni­ca­tion come up against a gene­ra­tion that commu­ni­ca­tes in 15-second TikTok videos. Whether you see that as super­fi­cial or super-effi­ci­ent, if you want to commu­ni­cate with young people, you need to engage with their chan­nels. It can feel chal­len­ging when exis­ting struc­tures and recipes for success are called into ques­tion. But it can open up new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Scou­ting is a move­ment with a long tradi­tion. Last year alone, 30,000 scouts atten­ded the Swiss Natio­nal Jambo­ree. This was made possi­ble by the work of 500 volun­t­ary orga­nisers and 5,000 Rovers. The Scou­ting Move­ment was estab­lished in 1907, and its slogan was ‘Do a good turn daily’. The fact that the orga­ni­sa­tion still appeals to the next gene­ra­tion over 100 years later is largely due to one key advan­tage: scouts are invol­ved at an early age and given the oppor­tu­nity to take on respon­si­bi­li­ties. There is a smooth tran­si­tion from atten­ding the Jambo­ree to beco­ming a leader. But there is still poten­tial to be mined where the youn­ger gene­ra­tion is concer­ned. Accor­ding to the Swiss Volun­tee­ring Survey 2020, 33 per cent of 15–29-year-olds volun­teer with an orga­ni­sa­tion, ten per cent of them in an offi­cial capa­city. Both of these figu­res are lower than for any other age group. The highest figure when it comes to offi­cial volun­t­ary roles is among 45–59-year-olds, where it is 20 per cent. In terms of gene­ral volun­tee­ring, the peak figure of 45 per cent can be found in the 60–74-year-old age group. 

Digi­tal volun­tee­ring platform

It is worth noting, howe­ver, that the youn­ger gene­ra­tion also has a tendency to look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to get invol­ved outside exis­ting struc­tures. And they are prepared to invest a lot of time. Cyrill Hermann chose to repeat a year of school so that he could get invol­ved in climate protests. ‘There’s a huge amount of work and we’re doing it volun­t­a­rily and for free,’ he explains. The oppor­tu­ni­ties to get invol­ved with an estab­lished NGO did not appeal to him – unlike the Climate Strike move­ment, which he got to know by taking part in demons­tra­ti­ons. The movement’s acces­si­bi­lity and social media commu­ni­ca­tion won him over: all he had to do was turn up at the next meeting and get invol­ved. Sabrina Trachs­ler and Chris­tian Sche­fer from the orga­ni­sa­tion Helfer­herz are looking to create the same acces­si­bi­lity with the plat­form Karma Lama. The online plat­form aims to deve­lop and enhance oppor­tu­ni­ties for volun­tee­ring and make those oppor­tu­ni­ties more visi­ble. They have been running a pilot in the Zurich region since the begin­ning of Septem­ber. It is not their aim to present a finis­hed product: they are keen on a more parti­ci­pa­tory approach. ‘We’ve been boun­cing the idea around with volun­teers, experts and NPOs for the past three years and we’ve evol­ved our concept in work­shops,’ explains Chris­tian Sche­fer. Sabrina Trachs­ler adds, ‘Gathe­ring feed­back is vital. It allows us to adapt the plat­form to actual needs.’ They used crowd­fun­ding to finance the initial version for a pilot in Zurich. But further funds will be needed to realise the plat­form on a wider scale.

Flexi­ble taster opportunities

If the match is to work, howe­ver, orga­ni­sa­ti­ons also need to make sure that the volun­tee­ring oppor­tu­ni­ties they are offe­ring tie in with the needs and expec­ta­ti­ons of the youn­ger gene­ra­tion. ‘Young people don’t neces­s­a­rily want to sign up straight away to helping out every Wednes­day after­noon for the next three months,’ comm­ents Sabrina Trachs­ler. ‘They want to try things out first and get a taste for the work. They want to be more spon­ta­neous in their commit­ment.’ As a result, the two colle­agues are working with NPOs to deve­lop oppor­tu­ni­ties for the plat­form that are more suited to the target group. The charity Cari­tas speci­fi­cally crea­ted young­Ca­ri­tas to ensure success in this area. Its broad range of projects offers diffe­rent levels of parti­ci­pa­tion. Young people can choose how invol­ved they want to be. ‘Volun­tee­ring with young­Ca­ri­tas fits in with youn­ger people’s sche­du­les, and ever­yone can choose their own level of invol­vement’, explains Nora Engler, project mana­ger at young­Ca­ri­tas. At the same time, the charity offers deve­lo­p­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, work­shops and a series of infor­ma­tive events. Young people can learn new skills and gain important expe­ri­ence. young­Ca­ri­tas values the importance of commu­nity buil­ding and networking. 


Of course, volun­t­ary work is not without its rewards. Take Thibault Béguin, Scout leader in the Duran­dal section, Val-de-Ruz. His scout shirt testi­fies to the memo­ries scou­ting has given him. A range of diffe­rent badges recall Jambo­rees and events, and signa­tures hold memo­ries of the people he has met, telling the stories of lasting experiences.

Nora Engler, young­Ca­ri­tas:
close to the heart
‘We offer a wide range of oppor­tu­ni­ties to get invol­ved – there’s some­thing for virtually ever­yone. We try to keep any barriers that might prevent people from joining us as low as possi­ble. Young people get invol­ved with young­Ca­ri­tas for a range of diffe­rent reasons: they want to expand their hori­zons or work for a fairer society. Getting to know new people from diffe­rent back­grounds, buil­ding some­thing toge­ther and lear­ning from one another are often given as moti­vat­ing factors too. Some­ti­mes young people are looking to deve­lop their skills. And, of course, they often want to stand up for a cause that is close to their heart.’
Chris­tian Sche­fer, Helfer­herz: helping shape change
‘Youn­ger people have diffe­rent moti­ves. They seek first­hand expe­ri­en­ces, a chance to learn some­thing new and the oppor­tu­nity to get to know new people. Older volun­teers are looking to apply their skills and pass them on. The youn­ger ones want a voice and the oppor­tu­nity to help shape change. They want to be asked their opinion. The sense of a shared expe­ri­ence plays an important role, and they may bring along a friend or work colleague.’
Sabrina Trachs­ler, Helfer­herz: diffe­rent expectations
‘We need some­thing that’s right for the youn­ger gene­ra­tion and works well digi­tally. We need an attrac­tive, digi­tal plat­form to make volun­tee­ring easy. But that’s not all. Orga­ni­sa­ti­ons need to change too. Youn­ger people want volun­tee­ring to be simp­ler and more flexi­ble. They want the oppor­tu­nity to get a taste for things and get to know the ropes without having to make a long-term commit­ment up front. We are trying to get this across to our part­ner orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. We are helping them to tailor their volun­tee­ring infor­ma­tion for the plat­form so that it has more bite than it does at the moment.’
Thibault Béguin, scout: the next generation
‘When I joined the scouts at the age of twelve, I was able to go to Jambo­rees and make new friends. When we got older, we took on respon­si­bi­lity and got invol­ved with orga­ni­s­ing the Jambo­rees. Scou­ting is about free­dom, friend­ship and also social volun­tee­ring. It invol­ves a huge amount of volun­t­ary work, and this requi­res time and energy. We are doing it for the next gene­ra­tion. We want to pass on what we were given: the expe­ri­en­ces we had thanks to the gene­ra­tion before us.’
Cyrill Hermann, Klima­streik: because no one else is doing anything
‘What sets the gene­ra­ti­ons apart is that our gene­ra­tion is very aware of the crisis. Busi­ness as usual is no longer an option. We’re not pursuing big ideas. Our demand is actually pretty mini­ma­list: we want a world that we and our child­ren can live in and justice for people who are alre­ady suffe­ring under the climate crisis. We’re doing this because no one else is doing anything, not because it’s cool or because we’re short of ideas of what to do with our time. Scien­ti­fic evidence that the climate is in crisis has been around for over 45 years. I’ve been alive for 18 years. But because no one’s done anything, our gene­ra­tion is having to take the lead. I’d have liked to have seen this commit­ment from the gene­ra­tion before us. But it’s still not too late, and we’re calling on every gene­ra­tion to do what they can. And I hope that the next one doesn’t have to deal with an exis­ten­tial crisis. The next climate strike will be on 15 Septem­ber and will happen in every city around the world. And we’re calling a natio­nal climate demons­tra­tion in Bern on 30 September.’
Nora Engler, young­Ca­ri­tas: soci­ally relevant
‘young­Ca­ri­tas brings toge­ther people from a range of diffe­rent back­grounds. We learn a lot from one another by tack­ling key social issues. It’s rewar­ding and moti­vat­ing working with so many young people who are passio­nate about what we are doing. I volun­tee­red as a student and always enjoyed working with other people for an important cause.’
Cyrill Hermann, Klima­streik: making a difference 
‘The Climate Strike move­ment is very acces­si­ble. And I can make a diffe­rence. Tradi­tio­nal NGOs have hier­ar­chies and their set-up means they’re very slow-moving. We see that when we work with them. And they’re willing to compro­mise. We’re criti­cal of that because when it comes to our future, there’s no room for compro­mise – the physics shaping that future simply doesn’t allow it. If we want a wort­hwhile future for ever­yone, we need climate justice and net zero by 2030.’
Thibault Béguin, scout: taking responsibility
‘Scou­ting is about deve­lo­ping into a roun­ded indi­vi­dual, finding your place in the world and being prepared. It’s totally rele­vant today. That’s what makes scou­ting so attrac­tive. It’s an excel­lent oppor­tu­nity to learn things for yours­elf and expand your CV. Scou­ting offers a lot of reco­g­nised trai­ning oppor­tu­ni­ties. I can orga­nise events, for exam­ple, and I am lear­ning how insti­tu­ti­ons work. Not many orga­ni­sa­ti­ons allow young people to do that. As a scout, I can take on a lot of respon­si­bi­lity at a very young age. I can make a diffe­rence. That’s a good thing. It’s worth a lot.’
StiftungSchweiz is committed to enabling a modern philanthropy that unites and excites people and has maximum impact with minimal time and effort.

Follow StiftungSchweiz on