The volunteer base for non-profit and charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross is aging. In the United States, statistics show that 28 percent of Americans aged 55-64 years and 18 percent of those aged above 65 years are engaged in volunteer activities with non-profit and charitable organizations (Allred, King, & Valentin, 2014). Another indicator that the volunteer base in the United States is growing older stems from the fact that volunteers in the country have a median age that is above 55. One more worrying trend is the constant decline in the number of volunteers. As a result, volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross are increasingly acknowledging the significance of attracting young people in order to revitalize their volunteer base. According to Haski-Leventhal, Ronel, York, and Ben-David (2008), it would be prudent for such organizations to adopt strategies aimed at attracting younger people to assist in the implementation of their programmes. It has been widely recognized in literature that the youth in the age range 15-30 years have a higher potential of developing into leaders and serving on the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations, whereby they can play a more active role with respect to influencing their future (Hustinx, 2010). Candidates to be included into the board of directors are normally selected from the pool of active members within an entity. Consequently, ensuring that young people get such high positions depends significantly on the effectiveness of the organization in attracting younger volunteers rather than relying on the older ones.
Waikayi, Fearon, Morris, and McLaughlin (2012) outlined a number of effective ways that the American Red Cross can use to increase the number of youthful volunteers to help in the implementation of its programs. It is claimed that the volunteer pool of the American Red Cross is aging because of the fact that young people are not interested in the services offered by the organization, and that volunteering does not generally appeal to them (Waikai, Fearon, Morris, & McLaughlin, 2012). The motivation to take part in volunteering activities is not an issue owing to the fact that young people tend to be passionate about learning and gaining experience. However, a significant barrier to participation relates to the lack of information regarding the volunteer opportunities and the benefits of volunteering (Haski Leventhal & Meijs, 2011).
Youth volunteers have been affirmed to be a vibrant and energetic source of support, especially for the American Red Cross.
Working with them can be very rewarding for the organization; nevertheless, it can pose a myriad of challenges including issues related to child protection as well as ways of communicating effectively (Hustinx, 2010). By engaging efficiently with youthful volunteers, the American Red Cross is in a position to benefit from vast fresh energy and ideas. Young people aged between 15 and 25 years constitute about 15 percent of the general population (Allred, King, & Valentin, 2014). Hustinx (2010) asserts that they make up a dynamic and diverse group which has a lot to offer. In addition, many of them have expressed enthusiasm and passion for helping other individuals. Youthful volunteers tend to bring about responsibility, eagerness, creativity, willingness and flexibility when executing their volunteer-related tasks. Simply stated, such people are a crucial asset that non-profit and charitable organizations cannot afford to miss on their volunteer base. Apart from offering novel ideas and new insights to the service delivery of Red Cross, young volunteers have the potential of motivating and strengthening the volunteer workforce. In addition, they can also play a crucial role in promoting the American Red Cross to their friends. According to Hustinx (2010), brand selection among young people depends significantly on peer recommendation; an aspect that Red Cross can exploit if it initiates a rigorous plan to increase the number of young people in its volunteer pool. By making sure that young volunteers have a positive experience when working with the organization, the American Red Cross can help increase awareness regarding humanitarian values as well as of its work among young people (Haski-Leventhal, Ronel, York, & Ben-David, 2008).
There is no doubt that most young people consider the American Red Cross attractive, which has attributed to its well-established brand name, humanitarian principles and global work. Nevertheless, just like other volunteers from different age groups, they have diverse skills and motivations. Currently, numerous non-profit and charitable organizations are competing for young individuals. In order for the American Red Cross to be able to attract young people in its volunteer pool, there is the need for it to offer a somewhat sophisticated package. The services proposed by the American Red Cross and the people the organization work with act as a vital source of inspiration for youthful volunteers. However, the American Red Cross should lay more emphasis on the tangible benefits that it is capable of offering, which include work experience, qualifications, training and skills. Allred, King, & Valentin (2014) reported that about 52% of young people consider volunteering to be important because of the final effect it has on their career. As a result, the American Red Cross has to ensure that the volunteering opportunities it offers increase the career possibilities for young people. Work experience is especially crucial for most young individuals who are either unemployed or no longer in the education system. Through helping them to acquire skills and experience, the American Red Cross will position itself as an organization that seeks to make a difference in the lives of young individuals while at the same time expanding its volunteer base. Young people can also benefit from volunteering through personal development. In this regard, the American Red Cross can establish initiatives aimed at acknowledging the hard work of volunteers, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and helping them to improve their skills. Hustinx (2010) asserts that, just like other people, young people also need a feeling of appreciation.
Therefore, the American Red Cross should seek to acquire the trust of young people and assist them in developing their sense of self-worth and confidence; through this, the organization will be offering a valuable service to young people while at the same time encouraging them to uphold their commitment to its principles. The American Red Cross has an advantage of having several volunteering placements for young people that are challenging, interesting and fun-filled. If the organization wants to engage young volunteers, the Red Cross has the responsibility of demonstrating them that it is capable of offering professional and personal growth and development opportunities that they require (Haski-Leventhal, Ronel, York, & Ben-David, 2008).
In conclusion, it can be argued that the aging of the volunteer base of the American Red Cross can be attributed to the fact that volunteering does not generally appeal to the younger generation, and that young people are disinterested in the services offered by the organization. The benefits of having a young volunteer base have been emphasized in literature; however, numerous challenges exist when trying to attract and retain young volunteers. The American Red Cross boasts of well-established brand name, humanitarian principles and global work; nevertheless, in order to attract and retain young volunteers, the organization should focus more on the tangible benefits that it is capable of offering, which include work experience, qualifications, training and skills. It has to create an image that it is able to provide professional and personal growth and development opportunities that young people require.