European Youth Portal
Information and opportunities for young people across Europe.

Volunteering in Europe

Voluntary activities play an important role in Europe, but the situation differs from country to country. Check out the volunteering scene in Europe: what's going on, how many people volunteer and how old are they?

Definition of volunteering

According to the European Youth Forum an activity can only be defined as volunteering if it is:

  • undertaken of a person’s own free will and involves the commitment of time and energy to actions that benefit others and society as a whole
  • unpaid (although it can involve reimbursement of expenses directly related to the activity)
  • for a non-profit cause, primarily undertaken within a nongovernmental organisation, and thus clearly isn't motivated by material or financial gain
  • not used to substitute or replace paid employment.


Volunteering and the EU

The history of volunteering in Europe differs from country to country. While some countries have longstanding volunteering traditions, other EU states are only beginning to create their own culture of voluntary action. According to the 2018 Barometer, 31% of citizens have been involved in volunteering in the last year, a six percent increase since 2014! Throughout the EU there has been a general increase in participation, with 18 member states seeing their number of volunteers rise. 

In 2014, the European Commission launched Erasmus+, a gateway to volunteering in Europe.

The Commission is working to improve and promote volunteering among young people, particularly to encourage the growth of the European Solidarity Corps. The European Voluntary Service is another established programme which helps young people to volunteer abroad.


Young people volunteering

We know that volunteering is strongly influenced by the history, politics and culture of a community and a country, but you can help change the tradition and boost volunteering in Europe. You might even be taking part in voluntary activities without even realising it: lending a hand at your local sports club, helping out an elderly member of your community or picking up litter in the forest or on the beach. In fact, sports and outdoor activities are the main volunteering sectors in Europe, followed by education, arts and music or cultural associations.

Published Fri, 19/04/2013 - 14:09
Last updated on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 21:23

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