2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
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There is no general, nation-wide programme for youth volunteering, which would be organised, funded, and monitored by the Finnish State. In this sense, Finland does not have a national strategy for youth volunteering.
Since there is no general, nation-wide programme for youth volunteering, this is not strictly applicable. Although youth volunteering often takes place in the third sector, it should be emphasised that the public authorities do have an important role regarding the funding of youth volunteering. For example, the Ministry of Education and Culture allocates state aid to national youth work service organisations and organisations carrying out youth work. These include organisations that are involved in youth volunteering. For more information, see Youth Wiki/Finland 5.6 Supporting youth organisations and about forthcoming changes in funding Youth Wiki/Finland 1.9 Current debates and reforms.
Secondly, the most important funding sources of voluntary organisations include also membership fees, fundraising, donations, and service delivery. However, there are clear sectoral differences in the funding sources of voluntary organisations. Voluntary youth organisations are mostly funded by state subsidies, EU funds, foundations, state ministries and private sources.
A significant form of public support for sports is the tax-free nature of volunteer work. Non-profit organisations do not need to pay taxes on the income gained through fundraising, donations, membership fees, etc. if no individual receives direct personal benefit from it and that all the funds are used for the ‘common good’ - to support activities for the entire club or team.
The sources of funding of Finnish voluntary organisations are
- Membership fees
- The use of facilities free of charge, voluntary workforce
- Income from service provision
- Sale of products
- Income from advertisements (e.g. in a magazine of a voluntary organisation)
- Agreements with private companies
- Grants from local and national authorities
- Project funding
- Capital income (e.g. rent income, etc.).
No conflicts of interest have been identified between the state aid rules and the allocation of grants and subsidies to voluntary organisations. One of the primary reasons for this is due to the long tradition of the activities of the voluntary sector.
According to the study “Voluntarism in Finland”, ordered by the Citizen Forum and realised by market research company Taloustutkimus, young people aged 15–24 years are the least active group of volunteers among all the age groups. In 2021, during the corona pandemic, young people aged 15–24 were doing on average 8,84 hours of voluntary work (if doing it more than one hour during asked period) in the four weeks prior, in comparison with 12,9 hours of the entire population. When compared to the figures from 2018, the amount of young volunteering has dropped to less than a third.
However, the young people who had never done voluntary work were more interested in trying it than all the other age groups. Young women (71 %) were more interested in trying volunteering than young men (54 %). Young people were also more interested in doing organised volunteering through some organisation, rather than doing it individually. Regarding the new handbook on how to get young people into volunteering see also Youth Wiki/Finland 2.8 Current Debates and Reforms.
According to About Finnish Youth Work 2019 (Nuorisotyöstä Suomessa 2019) -survey by the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi, 39 % of municipal youth workers and administrators and 57 % of actors in youth organisations agree that the significance of youth volunteering has increased in the youth work sector during the last 5 years. Yet, according to the results, the activity of young volunteers has decreased in both sectors and there have been concerns towards the resilience and well-being of active young volunteers. (Holopainen 2019.) As reported by the thesis of Rico Martikainen (South-Eastern University of Applied Science, 2022), who studied the well-being of young volunteer activists, one fifth of the young volunteer activists struggle with their mental health and well-being.
The overall ethos of the Finnish voluntary sector is that everyone can volunteer regardless of their level of experience, skills, or background. This means that there are no minimum requirements for individuals to be able to participate in voluntary activities. One of the challenges, which volunteering faces in Finland, is that many administrative roles, even in small voluntary associations, require a high level of skills in order to deal with the increasingly complex bureaucracy and administration. Many youth organisations provide training for their members, and especially for members that volunteer as instructors or leaders. These education and training opportunities are one form of support for young volunteers.
The Finnish Red Cross provides volunteers with training, support, and work counselling. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church arranges courses on social skills for young volunteers. The politically and religiously non-affiliated Prometheus Camps Association organises camps where young people can discuss and form their own world views. Once they have completed the camp, they can participate in organising and planning camps. The Guides and Scouts of Finland trains volunteers by offering peer instructors, with consideration for each age group.
In addition, the support of the municipalities (see Glossary) for those involved in volunteering (training, grants) is significant, especially in bigger cities and towns.
The Citizen Forum has started a national JEP –development project in 2021, which aims to increase volunteering opportunities for young people under age 18 by developing approachable, inclusive and attractive activities together with young people and professionals. The main target group is especially volunteer activity coordinators in various organisations. The project will last until the year 2023.
Almost all voluntary organisations provide insurance for their volunteers. The volunteer insurance system is well developed, easily available and relatively inexpensive. Some volunteering programmes might provide young volunteers with a little pocket money. The pocket money received by the volunteer cannot be regarded as a valid salary. Furthermore, the work performed by a volunteer cannot replace the basic functions the organisation delivers. In practice, the legal status of volunteers is ambiguous. For example, volunteers are sometimes regarded as employees, and the European voluntary service has been treated according to the taxation practices of the Employment Contracts Act. The taxation of voluntary work is subject to a number of different interpretations.
There is no comprehensive system of quality assurance for evaluating voluntary activities at the national level. However, the subsidies for youth organisations must be allocated based on the performance. In other words, youth organisations must prove the quality of their actions in order to receive state subsidies (for more information, see Youth Wiki/Finland 5.6 Supporting youth organisations).
In addition, there are a variety of quality assurance systems and controls at both the local and regional levels. Most municipalities, organisations and cities provide their own system of quality assurance.
However, in accordance with the Government Decree, grounds for approval to be identified as a national youth organisation, and therefore entitled to subsidies, can be departed from if an organisation can be deemed to be nationally representative of a language or other minority or a specific branch. Although this measure is not directly aimed at fostering participation in voluntary activities, it does take into consideration minorities in the third sector and supports their participation.