photo by Jesse Mullan

In their shoes

Young people have many valuable skills to offer your organisation, and considering their desire for experiences and opportunities, can help with your volunteer recruitment.

Generally speaking, youth and volunteering are often assumed to have more at odds that in common, but the two can be quite complementary with a little effort. As not-for-profit organisations, if we can’t recruit new volunteers, then we face inevitable extinction. We need to seriously consider how to recruit young volunteers, not only for survival, but to continue the positive impact we have on our local communities long into the future.

As we approach Student Volunteer Week it is an ideal time to discuss things that you can do as an organisation to recruit new blood into your volunteer base.

Go to the Source

This does not mean that you have to start hanging out at the local skate park or stroll around the mall for hours on end talking with teenagers. Approach high schools, universities, and other local PTE’s, make appointments to speak to the career advisors, counsellors, tutors and Gateway Programme coordinators. These people have a role in helping students get into work experience. Students come to them looking for opportunities, for real life work experiences, and volunteering is a great way for them to get that experience. And organising it through the school means they may be eligible to volunteer during school hours.

Short term projects lead to long-term commitment

Consider short-term group projects instead of regular ongoing roles as a way to include youth in your organisation. Teens are naturally quite social creatures within their own peer groups, so come up with some short-term projects that a group can work on. Do you need a wall painted? Then talk to the art department at the high school and see if they would be interested in running a mural competition, where the winning mural is painted by the class; this builds your community connections and the winning student has a real life example of work for their portfolio. Do you need your website updated or a promotional video created? Talk to the media studies or graphic design classes.

Build loyalty through relationship

When you recruit your youth volunteer, invest some time in getting to know them. For many youth this may be their first time in a real-life work experience, so be patient, don’t micromanage them and take time to give constructive feedback. Teenagers love it when they are treated like adults, so opt for coffee at a cool cafe and create space for both of you to provide feedback on the experience as it progresses.

Including young people into your organisation is a win for both parties: You as the organisation gain a volunteer full of energy, ready to be introduced to the wide world of volunteering, they get real world experience where they can test their own theories on how the world outside of high school works. Young people have many valuable skills to offer your organisation, they are experts at social media, could provide your team with IT training or update your website to be mobile friendly, but much more important than having a young person as a volunteer is that you are creating a volunteer for life who knows the value of giving back instead of taking from this world.

Corrine Coombe is on the Board at VNZ. Corrine works as an administrator by day, but her real passion is volunteering. From sausage sizzles and car washes, to organising community education classes and fundraising fashion shows she gets involved in it all.

Lifting standards – the worth of dogged persistence

How do we manage to get a large number of people who only have limited periods of time volunteering for your organisation to model your culture and consistently behave in a way that exemplifies the values and standards of excellence that you aspire to? You have a part to play in moulding the culture of your organisation, as part of the culture is the behaviour that results when a group arrives at a set of spoken and unspoken rules for working together.

Tip #1: Know what you want. You must be very clear about the exact behaviours that you do want, and those that you don’t. Take the time to listen to feedback and ideas from customers, from staff who work alongside these volunteers, and from the volunteers on your team who carry out the role in a way you admire.

Tip #2: Behave that way yourself. Do it, be it, and make sure you never show the behaviour you don’t want. Stand shoulder to shoulder out in the workplace and show what you want, rather than just talking about it.

Tip #3: Pay attention to good behaviour. Notice it, comment on it, say ‘well done’, and share the story of what you saw with everyone in the team. The more immediate and genuine your reaction is, the more effective it will be.

Tip #4: Pay attention to bad behaviour. If you choose to ignore it, you can be sure you are risking it spreading more widely. If you always follow up — whether it is staff behaving badly, or volunteers — it is a clear message that your values are not just words. It shows you mean them and live by them.

Tip #5: Keep paying attention. If you stop looking and dealing with the small incidents and lapses, you can guarantee that they will keep recurring, and your small problems will grow into big ones.

One of the challenges we face with developing consistent behaviour amongst large groups of volunteers is that we can never gather them all together in one place at one time. Nor can a manager or supervisor spend time with every single volunteer on every shift. Instead what actually happens is that volunteers say to newcomers, “This is the way we do it here.” Your challenge is to make sure your standards of behaviour are so strongly embedded that this is the culture that prevails.

And as a last suggestion, go back and re-read tip #2.

Ros Currie is the Manager of Volunteer Services at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

© Copyright 2015 Volunteering New Zealand Incorporated