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EACEA National Policies Platform


2. Voluntary Activities

2.2 Administration and governance of youth volunteering

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Governance
  2. Cross-sectoral cooperation


Main actors

A large number of actors and stakeholders participate in regulating, managing the strategic orientation of and implementing volunteering schemes in practice. At the political level, these are the lower house of the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) and various federal ministries (Bundesministerien); at the civil society level, several organisations and working groups.

Within the Federal Government, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) is primarily responsible for the political framework around civic engagement. In 2015, a department for democracy and civic engagement (Abteilung Demokratie und Engagement) was set up inside the Ministry. Within that department, section (Referat) 114 is responsible for the youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste) Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ), Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ) and the International Youth Voluntary Service (Internationaler Jugendfreiwilligendienst, IJFD).

Other relevant government bodies are:

Within the lower house of the Federal Parliament (Bundestag), the parliamentary subcommittee on civic engagement (Unterausschuss Bürgerschaftliches Engagement) of the Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Ausschuss für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) works to continue improving the circumstances under which volunteering takes place. It discusses ongoing legislative projects that touch upon civic engagement. One of the fundamentals of its work is the set of recommendations of the Enquête commission “Future of civic engagement” (Zukunft des Bürgerschaftlichen Engagements). Between 1999 and 2002, this commission had analysed the situation concerning civic engagement in Germany before drawing up a political strategy. The subcommittee builds on this strategy and, in collaboration with civil society groups, helps to continue develop the Federal Government’s policies in the field of civic engagement.

Major non-public stakeholders in the field of volunteering are:

  • Germany’s umbrella associations for independent social welfare organisations (Spitzenverbände der Freien Wohlfahrtspflege) including, inter alia: 

Workers’ Welfare Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt Bundesverband e.V., AWO)Paritätischer Gesamtverband e.V. (umbrella organization in the area of voluntary welfare services)German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz e.V., DRK)German Caritas Association (Deutscher Caritasverband e.V.)

  • German Sports Youth, part of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (Deutsche Sportjugend (dsj) im Deutschen Olympischen Sportbund e.V. (DOSB))

dsj offers sports activities across the entire country with the aim of assisting young people in developing as individuals. The organisation offers ample opportunity for young people to volunteer in the sports field. For instance, they can join what are known as junior teams (Juniorteams) or volunteer in a sports project.

IB and its affiliated societies is one of Germany’s biggest providers of youth, social work and educational services as well as volunteering schemes.

BKJ and its cultural and educational partner organisations (a network known as Trägerverbund Freiwilligendienste Kultur und Bildung) jointly offer year-long volunteering placements in the fields of culture (FSJ Kultur), education (FSJ Schule), politics (FSJ Politik), the Federal Volunteer Service for Culture and Education (Bundesfreiwilligendienst Kultur und Bildung) and two other volunteering schemes for culture (Kultur) and international education (Bildung International).

NABU is one of Germany’s leading volunteering associations in the area of conservation and environmental protection. It offers Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) placements in the field of nature conservation.

JAO gGmbH runs child and youth services facilities and activities, manages the provision of social benefits, and is also affiliated with the Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr), Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr) and Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) schemes in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.


List of Federal Volunteer Service (BFD) central offices, These offices provide support to the places of assignment, handle major administrative tasks and represent the interests of the places of assignments vis-à-vis the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA).

There are several working groups (Arbeitskreise) and networks active in the volunteering sector that work to continue developing and improving volunteering schemes:

There is no central directory of organisations that offer volunteering opportunities for young people. Online, there are a number of lists, such as these:

These lists are regularly updated.


General distribution of responsibilities

Germany’s federal structure is also reflected in the volunteering field. At the federal (national) level, responsibility lies with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend). At the Länder (state) level, this role is played by the competent state ministries, e.g., in Baden-Württemberg the responsible ministry is the Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration (Ministerium für Soziales und Integration). There is currently no coherent civic engagement policy in place between the federal and Länder levels.

Most volunteering schemes are subject to federal legislation, such as the youth voluntary schemes Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ) and Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ), as well as the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst, BFD). The BFD is managed and funded exclusively at the federal level, whereas in the case of FSJ and FÖJ the Federal Government is only responsible for funding the educational support given to volunteers; all other tasks are managed by the federal states in question. Non-profit organisations, in their capacity as civil society groups, are responsible for managing and implementing the schemes, which includes selecting and supporting volunteers. The implementing organisations take care of assigning the volunteers to the places of assignment or the projects they manage.


There is no information on existing cooperation with voluntary schemes in other countries.

Cross-sectoral cooperation

As a rule, the federal ministries are required to work together in matters that relate to two or more federal ministries. Cross-sectoral cooperation as well as cooperation with other departments in another federal ministry and with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt), the lower (Bundestag) and upper house (Bundesrat) of parliament, the Mediation Committee (Vermittlungsausschuss), and the supreme state authorities of the federal states is governed by the Joint Rules of Procedure of the Federal Ministries (Gemeinsame Geschäftsordnung der Bundesministerien, GGO).

The advisory council for the Federal Volunteer Service (Beirat für den Bundesfreiwilligendienst) advises the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) on issues relating to the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst, BFD). It meets once a year. It consists of 23 members that are elected for four years. Its members are the federal spokespersons for volunteers and representatives of the BFD central offices (Zentralstellen), of churches, of employees’ and employers’ associations, and of the federal states and the local government central associations. There is no such institution for the youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste).

An interministerial working group consisting of representatives of the competent federal ministries - the BMFSFJ, the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt, AA) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung, BMZ) coordinates and discusses the international youth voluntary schemes offered by the Federal Government, e.g., the International Youth Voluntary Service (Internationaler Jugendfreiwilligendienst) and other voluntary services such as weltwärts or kulturweit). The working group also discusses adjustments with regard to visa issues, the recognition of placements abroad, health issues, security situations. The second-tier authority of BMFSFJ, the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA), is also present in this interministerial working group.

There are also consultations between BMFSFJ and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS) relating to social security issues of volunteers at home and abroad or questions such as, e.g., the labour market neutrality of volunteering schemes.