What is Volunteering?

Volunteering is defined as an unpaid activity done on one’s own free will to benefit community and society. It can be fostered by government through support and is usually carried out by individuals being active in various organisations, clubs and parties. Furthermore it is a way to actively participate in society and achieve personal goals.

EEE-YFU also advocats for:

  • Youth mobility;
  • Recognition of long-term youth exchange.


“I experienced quite some lack of understanding concerning my voluntary work from people around me in the last couple of years. Some people have a hard time understanding why I spend my time working for free when this is not doing anything for me.” (Hanna, Germany)

“Volunteering is becoming an increasingly popular requirement among employers; we should put emphasis on the skills gained through volunteering and intercultural exchanges!” (Cristiana, Romania)

Why is volunteering important?

Volunteerism is a key resource in youth organisations for two reasons:

  • Individual learning and development flourishes through it and it can empower people to actively participate in society;
  • Volunteers often help to carry out programme work and to achieve the organisations’ values and goals.

In the case of YFU, volunteers contribute to YFU’s high quality standards through their experiences in youth exchanges and knowledge gained in seminars and trainings. Recruiting new volunteers, training and keeping them active  motivating them  is of high relevance.  Volunteering is not only a means to an end, but a YFU core value.

Current Challenges

  • Lack of recognition: Volunteering is not sufficiently recognised in several key ways, including through government legislation, by formal education institutions, employers, etc.  It should be recognised as a means of informal learning and non-formal education, a method to promote active citizenship and a source of inter-cultural learning;
  • Lack of legal status in some countries: Volunteers are often not protected by a legal framework meaning they may not have the right to reimbursement of costs, insurance, international mobility or they may lose entitlement to social benefits;
  • Lack of promotion and facilitation: Volunteering has to be promoted on equal terms with e.g. formal education and political participation; volunteers need equal rights and possibilities of facilitation.

Policy Solutions

EEE-YFU calls upon:

  • Institutions providing formal education – higher education as well as secondary school education – to recognise volunteering as an important learning experience and to encourage the development of skills through volunteering to as full extent as possible;
  • Employers in the labour market to recognise the skills that volunteers have learnt during their volunteer activity;
  • All countries which do not currently have a legal framework for volunteers to introduce such a legal volunteer status as soon as possible.

You can also check the page of our European Trainer Network (ETN), dedicated to improve the skills of volunteers around Europe.

Resources on Volunteering

European Charter on the Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers (2012)

The European Charter of the Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers, prepared by the European Youth Forum, creates a common understanding of the definition of volunteers, volunteering activities and volunteering providers and provides a common set of basic rights.

Report from the Commission on the 2011 European Year of Volunteering (2012)

The EYV 2011 acted as a catalyst for policy changes both at European and national level. A number of important policy documents were adopted already during the year. In addition, initiatives are underway to help mainstream volunteering into EU policies.

Communication from the Commission on EU Policies and Volunteering (2011)

On the occasion of the European Year of Voluntary Activities (2011), the Commission took the opportunity to take stock of volunteering in the European Union and its contribution to society, while recommending Member States to take measures to improve volunteering frameworks.

EUCIS-LLL Position on Volunteering (2011)

EUCIS-LLL calls for recognition of volunteering as a tool to develop active citizenship, social inclusion and employability; development of a specific legal framework for volunteering; support to the transnational dimension of volunteering; and recognition of volunteers’ competences.

Resolution of the Council on youth work (2010)

The Resolution calls on Member States to promote different kinds of sustainable support for youth work, e.g. sufficient funding, resources or infrastructure; it calls on the Commission to enhance the recognition of non-formal learning in youth work, by providing learning mobility experiences for youth workers and youth leaders.

Council Recommendation on the Mobility of Young Volunteers Across the European Union (2008)

With this recommendation, the Council encourages Member States to promote the cross-border mobility of young volunteers. It provides a framework for intensifying Member States’ cooperation, on the basis of which new opportunities for mobility may be created.