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10 Reasons Why Volunteering Should Only Ever Be Voluntary

Forcing a student to volunteer could be frustrating for everyone, including the school or college.

It may be suitable for the organization but not for the individual, or vice versa.

We need to understand that young adults are different and that forcing them into volunteer activities or a community service program can be harmful to both the student and the nonprofit organization.

10 Negative Effects of Mandatory Community Service

The idea of mandatory volunteerism for students has gained traction in several countries as a way to teach students the value of philanthropy, civic engagement, and work experience. However, some critics have argued that such requirements can have negative consequences on teens, such as loss of academic focus and even burnout among students.

Seen as a Punishment

Mandatory service may be viewed by high school or college students as a punishment rather than a learning opportunity.

The idea is that volunteer experience will give students the opportunity to understand the needs of people and organizations in their community. In this way, students learn valuable skills and develop social awareness and a sense of responsibility.

Some students would much rather spend their free time doing something else than working for free for nonprofit organizations that may not interest them.

Some teens find it unfair that they’ve to do service hours for free, while others have no such obligation. Others may not be interested in the types of organizations represented in the community or feel they can’t make much of a difference anyway.

They see it as a waste of time and energy when they could be using those service hours more wisely for another extracurricular activity.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that some students don’t have a choice of where they’re assigned or which organization they want to work for. This lack of choice reinforces the feeling among some students that their community service work is a waste of time.


Teenagers resent being forced to do something they feel is pointless.

The problem with mandatory community service is that it’s often not perceived as meaningful.

Feelings of “I don’t need this” and “This is a waste of time” arise when teenagers’ sense of autonomy is threatened.

A community service project may be considered an added burden to an already tricky final exam or an unreasonable expectation of a school they believe should be about education and persuasive essays, not volunteerism.

Some teenagers also feel that they’ve nothing to contribute to the local community and that their presence wouldn’t be appreciated. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and show them how their contribution can make a difference.

Regardless of how students feel about community service per se, most young adults who volunteer with my organization agree that it’s important to improve the lives of others and that they’d like to do so rather than “have” to.

Values Are Undermined

Teaching the value of charity is more effective when it comes from within rather than being imposed from without.

When students are forced to do mandatory volunteer hours, they may not be motivated to do it because of their beliefs. Instead, they’re told what to do and how to think about the issue.

The values and ethics of the nonprofit organization are challenged because teens don’t have the opportunity to understand why it’s an essential requirement for them, as community members, to advocate for a particular issue.

This school-based requirement can make students feel alienated from their role and even less willing to participate.

Poor Performance

Forcing a high school student or a college student to participate in volunteerism may result in poor morale. This will lead to lower productivity than if they were doing these things of their own accord, and it won’t make your company look good (especially if the news reports about low morale in your nonprofit organization).

Compromising Health and Safety

One of the biggest fears when it comes to mandatory community service is that people might take it less seriously. That’s because they didn’t choose to do it. They’re not there for the right reasons.

What’s the consequence of that? Health and safety might be at risk.

It’s very possible that the students will be assigned to a group with students who’ve no experience in the field and aren’t trained, which means that supervision isn’t as good as it should be. No one but themselves is directly responsible for their safety. So if they don’t know what they don’t pay attention to during training, they can put themselves and others in danger.

Student volunteers who feel they’re being forced into community service are probably less likely to participate than those who’re actually there because they want to.

This can lead to less supervision and ultimately more risk for everyone involved.

For example, if students don’t complete their training properly, they increase the risk of injuring themselves or others:

  • A college or high school student might’ve to spend a few community service hours cleaning a park so they can get 2 or 3 points on their report card. This defeats the whole idea because the high school or college student feels obligated to do it and not because he/she wants to help someone.
  • Another example is that a high school or college student isn’t professional when it comes to working in certain industries or with certain people (disabled or elderly). he/she may not be able to help someone properly, putting his/her health and safety at risk.


When you’re forced to do something, your mind automatically shuts down so it can’t absorb anything new.

Effective training isn’t possible if the school tries to force it on you, because your mind can only learn something if it’s interesting or you are passionate about it.

That’s why a high school or college student forced to do mandatory volunteering usually ends up ineffective and stressed. This leads to many problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc.

Ineffectiveness in School

Mandatory volunteering or rather the pressure of having to do “good deeds” not only has a negative impact on students but also on the efficiency of their graduation.

When teenagers are forced to do something they don’t want to do, they’re likely to experience stress and burnout. When that happens, it can make it even harder for them to focus on their graduation requirement.

If the school makes volunteering mandatory and the students don’t like it, the school may also lose credibility in terms of its effectiveness.

Generation Gap

Volunteer work has always been an integral part of our society, helping to build bridges between different generations and walks of life and making them more tolerant of each other. However, many young people find community service boring and dull.

If you force young adults to do community service, you’ll not get good results, because most of them will just sit in their chairs and think about how long they’ve to do this “boring stuff”.

Mandatory community service will also widen the gap between generations.

Lack of Motivation for Collective Action

Someone who doesn’t want to be there or feels obligated is less likely to get involved and participate during his/her community service hours.

As a result, other volunteers (who’re doing it for the right reasons) will lose motivation and be less likely to participate with a positive attitude.

A student may also behave carelessly because volunteering isn’t voluntary, further demotivating volunteers and ultimately making everyone involved in the project feel unmotivated.

Harm to the Organization

As tempting as it may sound to make community service mandatory, it doesn’t help charities much.

First, if volunteer teams aren’t motivated, more mistakes will be made that can impact the vulnerable communities the organizations are trying to help.

Second, more mistakes put the organization’s reputation on the line.

And third, volunteers who’re forced to do community service don’t have a choice of where they do their volunteering. As a result, the social aspect is lost and the work becomes a chore for the students.

They’ve no control over the group they’re helping and may not feel connected to the cause they’re volunteering for. It also means more work for nonprofits because they need more staff.

Nonprofits that rely on volunteers need more volunteers to function. If there are too many volunteers, nonprofits cannot manage them all and may be forced to hire paid staff with leadership skills to manage the student volunteers.

A School or College Should Encourage Its Students to Volunteer

Community service learning remains important for students’ futures, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. Instead, schools should educate about why civic engagement is important and why it’s important to consider volunteering opportunities.

I also think that a lesson on community service requirements can be useful for both students and nonprofits to help students better understand that a volunteer opportunity is a privilege and an opportunity to gain work experience and sometimes leadership skills.

Participating in a community service project shouldn’t be a burden.

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