Why It Exists

Why Encourage Youth to Volunteer?

Research shows that low self-esteem, a lack of a sense of community, and unreached educational potential are seriously harming the lives of youth in America. Studies indicate that volunteering can alleviate those problems and have a broader positive impact on the lives of youth.

It is urgent to take action to improve young people’s self-esteem, increase their feeling of connectedness, and develop their educational opportunities. Low self-esteem is associated with many psychological, physical, and social consequences that detrimentally affect adolescent development including depression, anxiety, violent behavior and substance abuse. Research also suggests that low self-esteem in adolescence may be a harbinger for poor longer-term outcomes, such as fewer years of post-secondary education, greater likelihood of joblessness and financial difficulties, as well as poorer mental/physical health and higher rates of criminal behavior. Scholars also report that low social capital, or one's sense of belonging and community, is related to teen violence and that social connectedness plays a protective role in reducing the risk of adolescent violence.

Volunteering Benefits Proven by Research

Project Pay It Forward Advisory Board Member Allan Luks (Founding Director of the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leadership at Fordham University and leading expert on volunteerism) coined the term “Helper’s High” in his book The Healing Power of Doing Good to describe the powerful physical feelings people experience when directly helping others to explain the real benefits to volunteers’ physical and emotional health. Today this awareness has become internationally recognized as a way to recruit volunteers.

The benefits of volunteering help at-risk and disadvantaged youth in many ways that last a lifetime. As shared by Project Pay It Forward Advisory Board Member Emeritus Dr. Stephen Post (Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Founder of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love), while helping youth get involved in volunteering is good for the community and people they help, it's also very good for them and shines a protective halo that follows a young person their whole life as they live longer and healthier lives.

Dr. Post authored a study that found people who give back to others lead happier and healthier lives than those who do not volunteer. The research on the physical and mental health benefits of volunteering is very powerful, especially for patients with mild to moderate depression and substance abuse problems. In addition to a higher sense of purpose and lower stress levels, people who give back are less likely to feel hopeless and lonely than those who do not volunteer.

Did You Know?

People Who Volunteer Report:
  • Feeling Good After Volunteering · 95%
  • Feeling Physically Healthier · 68%
  • Feeling Less Stress · 73%
  • Sleeping Better · 58%
  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Why Youth Should Volunteer
  • Health Benefits of Volunteering


More Benefits of Volunteering:

Benefits of Volunteering
Numerous research studies have shown that youths who volunteer gain an increased sense of self-efficacy, higher academic achievement and interest on furthering their education, improved problem-solving and collaborative skills, and an enhanced civic engagement attitude.
— Search Institute  
Mother Teresa Effect
Psychologist David McClelland conducted a study in which Harvard students watched a film of Mother Teresa tending to orphans in Calcutta. These students had significant increases in the antibody salivary immunoglobulin A (S-IgA). He discovered that even just thinking about doing a good deed had a positive impact on the immune system, a concept that is now referred to as the “Mother Teresa effect”.
Live Longer
Even when controlling for other factors such as age, health, and gender, research has found that when individuals volunteer, they are more likely to live longer.
Overcoming Depression
Volunteering enhances one’s sense of purpose while placing them in a social environment. Such generosity makes people feel better about themselves, builds confidence, and combats feelings of isolation and depression.
Making Us Happy
People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness. People who help others on a regular basis also improve their health.

Project Pay it Forward Coalition

It takes a team effort to change the world. If your organization believes in and upholds the pay it forward concept, please contact us to be part of our Project Pay it Forward Coalition. Our goal is to collaborate with others so that we can make the strongest impact together. Here are some our affiliates, supporters, strategic alliance partners, and organizations that advocate paying it forward.






Help Make a Difference with WCMAD

There are many ways you can get involved! Learn more about our programs and opportunities.