6 Tips for Hosting Youth Volunteers

Kids VolunteeringGuest post by Lacey Helmig

Youth volunteers can be a great way to boost the energy of an organization — and get a lot done.

Youth can provide enthusiasm and excitement while contributing in a large way to the organization’s mission. The youth also benefit by learning new skills, meeting new people, and of course earning those all-important volunteer hours that are now essential for college or job applications.

Has your organization been hesitant to offer youth volunteer opportunities? It can be a win-win situation for both you and the volunteers if you keep these six tips in mind:

  1. First Impression

It’s very likely that this experience may be the first time that a young person volunteers. Keep that in mind when selecting a project and relating to the volunteer. Nothing is worse than a poor initial exposure to volunteerism for a youth volunteer.

  1. Meaningful Work

A meaningful task is the most important aspect of a youth volunteer project. Limit clerical or fundraising projects to a minimum, and try to focus on projects where volunteers can truly see the impact of their work. The most popular projects usually include client-based work since youth appreciate being able to get to know the people or animals they’re helping.

  1. Explain the Purpose

Make sure youth understand the purpose of the activity. Sometimes the most urgent volunteer need can be a mundane task (i.e. preparing litter boxes at an animal shelter). This can be a meaningful activity if you explain well the importance of the task. For example, explain how many litter boxes the shelter uses in a day and how many cats that helps. This helps the youth see that it’s an important task, even if it isn’t the most exciting.

  1. Offer Structure

Make sure to organize youth projects with a lot of structure. Bored youth volunteers can lead to problems for everyone. Many organizations underestimate the amount of work a group of dedicated youth can accomplish. Setting high expectations and making a detailed schedule with plenty of extra tasks can solve this problem.

  1. Think Ahead

Be prepared with materials and space. Unlike adult volunteers who may be happy to go home early from a project if the job is done or weather interrupts an outdoor project, youth often need to tell their parents or guardians exactly when they will be done so they can be picked up. Try to have a back-up idea in case anything in your plan changes or goes wrong so that these youth have something to do until the official project end.

  1. Share Your Passion

Remember what a win-win situation it is to have youth volunteers at your agency! Not only do they bring energy and enthusiasm, but you could be creating a lifelong volunteer and ally for your organization.

Photo credit: hepingting

Lacey Helmig_webLacey Helmig is Communications and Media Coordinator for Youth Volunteer Corps, a youth service organization that creates and supports quality, team-based youth service opportunities throughout the U.S. and Canada.


July Food for Thought: What Are the Experts Saying?

Food for Thought

At VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the fields of volunteer engagement and nonprofit management, and we want to help you stay up to date on the latest news and trends. Here’s some food for thought to get your July going…

5 Ways to Recruit Passionate Fundraisers
From The Nonprofit Marketing Blog
Volunteers – and not just board members – can make the best fundraisers. Find out who else you should involve with your fundraising efforts

Millennials Respond Better to Peers than Bosses When Asked to Give
From The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Speaking of fundraising, new research in the form of The 2015 Millennial Impact Report shows co-worker relationships are very important to millennials. How will your inspire your corporate friends to spread the word to their work BFFs?

Beyond the Thank You Card: Meaningful Volunteer Appreciation
Liza Dyer explores an important question: How do we eliminate the disconnect between the ways we thank our volunteers, and the ways they want to be thanked?

What are Volunteers Saying About Your Organization?
From Twenty Hats
More from Liza: Your volunteers may be talking to you, just not to your face. Find out how to listen to what volunteers are saying online.

And for a little extra fun: 6 Reasons National Service Makes Us Feel Like Dancing
From Corporation for National & Community Service
Get into the service groove!

For more tips from experts, check out the VolunteerMatch book that brings together 35 experts.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Katherine H. Campbell, Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA)

Katherine H. Campbell, CVA, Contributor to VolunteerMatch's new book: Volunteer Engagement 2.0VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Katherine H. Campbell, CVA, Executive Director, Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA).

First of all, what is your chapter about?
Taking Charge of Your Professional Development revisits a familiar topic to encourage a broader, more proactive approach to learning and growth. The chapter suggests a wide variety of professional development options, their benefits for individual leaders of volunteer engagement and their organizations, tips on how to develop a personal, focused plan, and several helpful resources.

Special attention is also given to the concept of a peer career coach. This is somewhat different than the traditional mentor-mentee relationship. Peer career coaching is a flexible model that has powerful benefits for both parties.

Why is this topic important?
Two reasons come to mind. First, whereas most of the book focuses on how we work with volunteers, this chapter focuses on ourselves. Professional development is a critical tool for influencing one’s personal journey and avoiding aimless drifting.

Secondly, we need to remember that our own learning directly relates to our organization’s mission and our community. As leaders of volunteer engagement, we are inherently responsible for relating to both internal and external audiences, responding to trends affecting volunteering, and pioneering new ways of doing things. Actively seeking new information and honing our skills equips us for this role.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I began my career in the juvenile justice arena where I helped develop a volunteer program in an urban family court system. The profession of volunteer management was still in its early formative stages– so there was a lot of experimentation and learning by trial and error!  As practitioners in the trenches, we were a fairly bold and creative bunch, yet we struggled to identify with the title “professional” when few regarded us as such.

As my career proceeded, the vast majority of my professional development was experiential. I marveled at how willingly the older pioneers in this field shared their knowledge and wisdom, and quickly learned the value of expanding my network of peer relationships throughout my state, nationally, and eventually internationally.   Did I label it “professional development”?  Probably not. But looking back, I now see clearly that it absolutely served that purpose.

A significant milestone came when I became Certified in Volunteer Administration.  Although I had already been in the field for over 15 years, I hungered for a way to signal to others that I was a competent professional. Earning the CVA credential met that need and enabled me to fully embrace my chosen path with confidence and pride.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
Although I began with a very broad definition of professional development, I still viewed it as primarily benefiting the individual person. Writing this chapter forced me to consider more deeply the ripple effect of individual professional development on organizations and communities.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Commit to spending a few hours in the next 6 months to invest in yourself. Join a local professional network, tackle a book that challenges your brain, or think out loud with a peer about what’s holding you back from making changes. Even small steps like these can bring clarity and help you make strategic decisions about your personal and professional journey.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World

Katherine H. Campbell, CVA, has worked in the field of nonprofit and volunteer management for over 30 years as practitioner, trainer and leader. She now serves as Executive Director of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA), managing professional credentialing programs for leaders of volunteers. She has authored and co-authored a number of books and articles, and has taught as adjunct faculty at several Virginia colleges. 


To read Katherine’s full chapter, Taking Charge of Your Professional Development, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.


A Closer Look at the Volunteer Program Improvement Tool for Hunger-Fighting Organizations

A few months ago, we introduced you to the Volunteer Program Improvement Tool, a free tool developed exclusively for hunger-related organizations*.

Today, let’s take a closer look.Volunteer Program Improvement Tool for Hunger NonprofitsAt VolunteerMatch, we recognize that a successful volunteer program isn’t just about attracting volunteers. It isn’t just about getting internal buy-in. Nor is it just about keeping volunteers engaged, having a good program infrastructure, giving volunteers the recognition they deserve, or letting your community know about your volunteer program.

No, it isn’t just about any of these things. It’s about all of them.

If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry. The Volunteer Program Improvement Tool takes you through each component of a successful volunteer program, one at a time.

Maybe you rock at getting volunteers on board, but have trouble keeping them. Not only will this tool diagnose that, it will give you concrete action steps and resources for strengthening your volunteer retention.

How? All you need to do is answer a few simple questions about your volunteer program.

After you complete the tool, you’ll receive a report created just for you, highlighting your program’s strengths and weaknesses, and a path for improvement.

What are you waiting for? Get on the path to a stronger volunteer program. Access the free tool today.

*You may be wondering, “Why hunger organizations?” VolunteerMatch developed this tool as part of our partnership with ConAgra Foods Foundation, a company with a big commitment to end childhood hunger. Part of this commitment includes equipping nonprofits with the resources they need to do what they do best – create real change in their communities in the fight against hunger. And for many food banks and similar organizations, this change is dependent on volunteers.

What Does Volunteerism Look Like Around the World?

If you’re like me, you know how easy it is to get wrapped up in your individual, day-to-day life. With so many pressing and immediate tasks to take care of at our nonprofits, it’s hard to step away from our micro-worlds and see things on a global, interconnected scale – at least for some of us.

State of VolunteerismYet, that’s exactly what the United Nations’ report Transforming Governance: 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report does.

Hear how volunteers in Bangladesh, Chile and more are organizing and gaining momentum, correcting injustices and changing their communities for the better. Watch a video of volunteers in action around the world.

And if you have time – at just shy of 100 pages, you will need time -, check out the full report on global volunteerism today. Here’s just an overview of what you’ll learn:

  • How volunteerism empowers marginalized groups in local communities.
  • The ways in which technology is improving volunteerism, on a global scale.
  • How volunteers are working side by side with national governments.

Have you read, or skimmed, the report? What’s the one piece of knowledge you’d like to share? Let us know by tweeting to @VolunteerMatch or commenting below.