Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Peter Dunn

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member

Second Advisor

Ginette Lafrenière

Advisor Role

Thesis Committee Member


Youth volunteerism is highly researched by volunteer organizations, but little is known about the factors impacting youth who provide indirect volunteering and the strengths and challenges which they face. Volunteering is indirect when the results of a volunteer’s work travels through more than one channel, (usually stakeholders spreading a message or raising funds), before reaching the intended client. Awareness raising and fundraising activities are two common examples of indirect volunteering that are attractive to many youth.

Ten youth volunteers from five different organizations in the Greater Toronto Area were interviewed in order to investigate three important questions about indirect volunteering.

These questions are:

  1. What strengths and challenges affect youth volunteers who provide indirect forms of service?
  2. What motivations, barriers to engagement, and opportunities for leadership affect youth volunteers who participate in indirect forms of service?
  3. How does role ambiguity impact indirect forms of service?

The methodology included purposive sampling for youth volunteers to participate in semistructured, in-depth interviews. Open coding from an interpretivist framework was used to analyze the qualitative data. The results highlight motivations, barriers to engagement, and opportunities for leadership that validate prior literature and shed light on new themes. The results also highlight strengths and challenges for youth volunteers. Role ambiguity, along with two new core themes emerged as new issues that were important to youth volunteers who provide indirect service. These two new core themes included exploring issues of empowerment and power imbalances for youth volunteers and the meaning that youth ascribe to their volunteer experiences.

Practice recommendations weighing strengths and challenges faced by youth volunteers across each of the core themes are provided in the discussion. Practice recommendations explore implementing job design and Community Service Learning to make indirect volunteering more clear for youth. The discussion also includes a conceptual framework with new models illustrating the provision of indirect services along with ideal and problematic pathways of engaging youth who are indirect volunteers. A conceptual framework illustrating ways to overcome role ambiguity is also provided. This research fills significant gaps in the literature about youth volunteers who are engaged in indirect service delivery.

This thesis offers methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of work with youth in the volunteer sector—which is a deeply embedded component of the welfare state (Evers, Laville, Borzaga, Defourny, Lewis, Nyssens, & Pestoff 2004). Volunteerism is an act of helping, and volunteers perform their work in helping professions including the social services that serve the welfare state.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons