The three causes that young people care about most

When it comes to determining volunteering behavior, whether or not a young person’s friends volunteer regularly is nearly twice as important as having the ability to work on an issue s/he cares about deeply. That being said, there are regular trends regarding which causes young people care most about and what they are most interested in taking action on.

Based on DoSomething.org’s data from over 2.5 million 13-25 year olds around the US, the top causes that young people care about are: bullying, health, and poverty. Sex/relationships, homelessness, and animal welfare were close runners up. It is important to note that bullying has emerged as a top cause only in the last two years—beating out long standing top causes, including homelessness and animal welfare. Despite its recent and fast rise in significance, bullying has gained a stronghold as a top cause among all types of young people.

The top causes that young people care about do vary somewhat by location and race. Animal welfare ranks particularly high among White young people, while poverty is considered a higher priority cause among Black and Hispanic young people. When considering location, young people in rural areas care more about hunger than do their suburban and urban counterparts. Suburban youth care about animal welfare, while urban youth prioritize homelessness as a cause. That being said, bullying remains the #1 cause that young people across the board care about.

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These top causes were discovered through both formal surveying and implicit data collection from DoSomething.org member actions. The combination helps reveal which causes young people actually take action on, compared with what causes they claim to care about. Differences can be seen on certain causes, such as “Our Troops,” which young people often say they care about yet are unlikely to follow through and take action on. Implicit data from DoSomething.org members also shows which causes young people care about consistently, rather than at a specific moment. Disaster relief, for example, is a top cause if you ask young people in the near aftermath of a natural disaster; however, this does not receive a sustained level of interest. Bullying, health, and poverty, on the other hand, are consistently the most favored causes by 13-25 year olds in the US.

Regardless of the cause, young people like to feel that the actions they are taking have a substantial and lasting impact on a social issue. Young people want to be part of something bigger—part of a movement—so that they feel as if they can make a difference even if they are only able to spend one hour volunteering or share one thing on Facebook. Volunteer opportunities presented to young people should not only explain the benefit of the volunteer’s immediate work but also the larger impact of the campaign/movement/organization overall.

Although there are three key causes that young people migrate toward consistently, DoSomething.org’s experience has shown that cause is not the most important factor in getting young people to take action. Therefore, when trying to provide young people with volunteer activities they will care about, it is important to think just as much about how young people want to volunteer as what cause they are volunteering for.

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Lisa Boyd - PhotoLisa Boyd is a Strategist at TMI, a subsidiary agency of Dosomething.org.  DoSomething.org is the country’s largest organization for young people (13-25) and social change; TMI leverages the organization’s 20 years of experience to help for-profit and not-for-profit brands excel in the fields of young people, technology and social change. Lisa is an expert on how/why young people volunteer and how to engage the millennial generation effectively in social cause campaigns.

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