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.