Student Volunteers in a College Town: Burden or Lifeblood for the Voluntary Sector?



Student volunteers provide a valuable source of unpaid labor to nonprofit organizations, particularly organizations in college towns where students make up a significant portion of the population. Indeed, students may be the lifeblood for these organizations. However, students may also be a burden if organizations do not have the volunteer administration capacity to support volunteers, if students are unprepared for volunteer assignments, or if the availability of students does not match the organization’s need. The purpose of this exploratory case study is to identify whether students were a burden to or the lifeblood of the voluntary sector in a college town. We surveyed 55 nonprofit leaders to identify their volunteer management capacity, experience of student volunteers (emphasizing the match between supply and demand), and their ideas for improvement. We found student volunteers comprise a significant percentage of their overall volunteer population and brought valuable skills and enthusiasm. However, we also found a mismatch between the demand for student volunteers and the supply of student volunteers, particularly as it relates to availability. We identified a number of recommendations to improve the overall service-learning experience. These findings are of interest to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions in college towns.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Amanda Jones, University of Florida

Dr. Jones is the assistant professor of nonprofit managment and leadership for the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences at the University of Florida.

Elaine Giles, University of Florida

Elaine Giles is the Assistant Director of Community Engagement and Service Learning within the David & Wanda Brown Center for Leadership and Service at the University of Florida.

Emily Carroll, University of Florida

Emily Carroll is an undergraduate resaerch assistant at the University of Florida.