Guest post by Maria Rainier
Making middle school, high school and college students part of your volunteering program is an important diversifying strategy that can help ensure the future viability of your organization. Without young people, you’ll have fewer long-term volunteers and the turnover rate will have you spending valuable time, energy and resources on extra recruitment efforts.
If you haven’t already tapped the resources of local schools and youth programs, it’s time to start focusing on recruiting younger volunteers to fill out your ranks. No matter what your volunteering program does, there are ways to incorporate young people into it and benefit from their energy, ideas and skills. The following five tips should help you recruit young volunteers for your organization:
1. Create Volunteer Titles
Think about the specific needs you have and what kinds of skills and abilities volunteers should have in order to meet your program’s needs. Try to develop titles with accurate descriptions of what types of work are done in each position. Having specific niches for young people to fill will help increase their confidence and show them that they’re meeting legitimate needs.
2. Increase Solidarity
Make sure that you have a way to make community members and others aware of your young volunteers. Provide them with distinctive, brightly colored T-shirts to help them develop group solidarity and enjoy being recognized as volunteers.
3. Record Hours
Equip your volunteer center with a communal chart for recording volunteer hours. Young volunteers are often trying to fulfill academic requirements or get an idea of how many hours they’ve served so they can include it in recommendation letters. If you make it easy for them to record their hours and establish bragging rights or contests based on the number of hours served, you’ll be increasing their motivation to keep working with you.
4. Host Workshops
Try establishing an annual event such as an all-day workshop and activity festival for your volunteers. Of course, this depends heavily on your budget, but you can make it fairly inexpensive by simply recruiting adults to share their expertise on desirable subjects. For example, if you have an adult volunteer who can show off a few Web design tricks or give some professional communication tips, students are likely to sign up to hear them.
Allowing students to “teach” their own workshops is also a great opportunity and looks good on résumés. Young volunteers tend to appreciate new ways to improve their credentials and learn something that’s valued in the real world, so if you can help them accomplish those goals, you’ll have their attention.
5. Get Online
If you’re not already on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another social or professional networking site, sign your organization up for at least one of these. Young people will discover you faster and will be able to share their volunteering accomplishments with friends more easily. You can also increase volunteer interaction by updating these accounts consistently and responding to comments.
Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching different social work degrees and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
(Photo: US Army)