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60% of Adolescents Volunteered in '91, Survey Finds

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Slightly more than 60 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds say they worked for a service organization or helped others without pay an average of 3.2 hours a week during 1991, according to a survey of adolescent charitable behavior released last week.

The survey was commissioned by Independent Sector, a coalition of some 800 nonprofit organizations. It is based on personal interviews conducted by the Gallup Organization with a nationally representative sample of 1,404 teenagers between April 30 and May 26, and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Schools and religious institutions were the primary organizations that influenced teenagers to volunteer, according to the survey, Independent Sector's first national study of teenage philanthropic activity.

Among students who did both formal and informal volunteer work, 79 percent said they became involved through their school, and 56 percent through their church or synagogue.

The most frequently reported volunteer tasks were babysitting (12 percent), youth-group leader or aide (6 percent), cleaning or janitorial work (5 percent), or teacher or tutor (5 percent).

The survey estimated that teenagers contributed about 1.6 billion hours of their time to formal volunteer work in 1991. Their cumulative service was roughly equal to that of almost 1 million full-time employees, and would have been worth some $7 billion dollars had they been paid the minimum wage, said Virginia Hodgkinson, Independent Sector's vice president for research.

At a time when there are many negative perceptions about teenagers, the survey results are "absolutely wonderfully encouraging,'' said the group's president, Brian O'Connell.

Other Findings

Among the survey's other findings:

  • About 25 percent of the respondents said they did their volunteer work at school.

Eight percent said their school required community service, and 21 percent said their school offered courses with a community-service component.

  • Of the students who performed community service, 29 percent volunteered at religious organizations, 26 percent at youth-development and recreation organizations, and 22 percent at education organizations.
  • Half of the respondents donated money to a charitable cause in 1991, with an average annual gift of $56.

Copies of the survey are available for $20 each from Independent Sector, 1301 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 659-0330.

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