‘How can we get more youth volunteers?’ is a common cry. Some organisations are fantastic at connecting with youth volunteers; others don’t know where to start. In the lead up to Student Volunteer Week, it’s a good time to challenge any ideas that young people don’t want to volunteer and consider how you can remove the barriers for them to start volunteering.
Here are SEVEN tips for engaging youth volunteers – ideas drawn from a panel discussion on youth and volunteering run by Volunteering New Zealand with four young leaders working in the voluntary sector.
What can youth bring to your organisation?
Young people are hyper aware of what is happening in the world and have lived experience that is different to other generations. Many have a passion for social change. It’s a great opportunity to tap into that – both at a governance level, and as volunteers on the ground.
Create the space for youth to volunteer
What do you need to do to make your organisation somewhere that youth would like to come and volunteer? Have a young person as the face of engagement so that newcomers can recognise themselves and feel part of a safe and comfortable environment.
Identify the barriers and overcome them
Why are young people unwilling to engage with your organisation? Are there barriers in place that discourage them? This could include expectations for the level of commitment, time, transport etc. Look for ways to co-create and design your programme with youth so it’s more attractive and accessible.
New ways of working
Young people may have different ways of working to what your organisation is used to. Consider everything from volunteer recruitment (can people apply in whatever way they’re comfortable?) to other systems and processes. Actively invite participation, encourage ideas, and try things out.
Go where youth are
Instead of expecting youth to come to you, go where they are! This could be in schools, universities, or other community spaces. Cultivate a relationship with youth organisations to invite young people to volunteer.
Build youth leadership
Can you create a pathway for youth volunteers to become leaders of new volunteers? Once they have experience, they could be trained to lead others. This will build leadership and sustainability into your volunteering programme.
Microvolunteering can bridge the gap
Huge impact can be achieved by many people giving small amounts of time and energy. What aspects of your volunteer programme could suit youth microvolunteering?
See further research about youth and volunteering