How One Organization is Helping Volunteers to Prepare Kids and Pave Futures

Guest post by Chinweoke Helena Eke

Engaging volunteers to help youth literacyIn today’s global village littered with personal, corporate and public debt, fiscal cliffs, foreign loans, student loans, mass shootings and other evidence of things gone wrong, it is becoming more imperative to reevaluate how our youth, the leaders of tomorrow, are nurtured to be responsible citizens. A community can no longer leave the raising of our children to a few, but should help wherever possible.

Some nonprofits are doing great work in this realm, but need more help. They seek pro bono workers via VolunteerMatch, which is a really great place to get skilled help! Here I will share how JA of Washington gets people interested, signed up and volunteering.

Making the Match

As an aspiring youth leader making a difference among the youth of today, to get the best opportunity that suited my requirements I simply “Bing’d” my thoughts, narrowed resulting options down to a few and “v’matched” with a stellar nonprofit taking action and doing great work to educate America’s children.

Junior Achievement of Washington (JA) brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum delivered by select trained volunteers and offers over 20 experiential, hands on programs that help students in grades K-12 discover and apply Entrepreneurship, Work Readiness and Financial Literacy concepts.

Organizations seeking skilled volunteers should be sure to invest quality resources in building a strong online presence that woos and magnetizes potential candidates. User-friendly websites/webpages, smartly optimized content (to keep top-search rankings) and wise social media linkages are key.

Information presented must be short, sweet and succinct enough to inform, without boring or losing your audience’s interest. It must be easy to locate online via user-friendly libraries. Also be sure to highlight your Mission, Call to Action, direct contact info and relevant Q & A.

For me, going into the JA experience, I wanted to know:

1) Format – “How it works and what to expect?”

Educational organizations that leverage their USPs well often have the advantage in sourcing teacher volunteers. Research shows that teaching others is one of the most rewarding life experiences and most people secretly want to teach in some way, shape or form.

Volunteering in a 3rd grade class for JAMy JA class of 3rd graders asked the most amazing questions and showed great interest in learning all about community, jobs, money, decision-making, career options, taxes, elections, appropriate conduct and more! Your volunteers will find that patience and the ability to get and hold audience interest is the first measure of success that forms the bedrock for all learning, so make your content fun!

With the JA program, each class generally runs between 30-45 minutes and course content is delivered in-person over 5-6 separate sessions. Knowing this helped me plan ahead and gauge my ability to commit my personal time BEFORE signing up. So always clarify what you expect from your volunteers up front and understand their expectations, too.

2) Preparation & Comportment – “I’m not a trained teacher, how will I prepare?”

Setting the stage for new volunteers to come in and feel empowered to do their best is key. First-timers wonder what to say or do, when and how, etc. With JA, before one’s 1st class, volunteers are required to complete the JA Online training, meet with a JA Program Manager for a full briefing,and review a comprehensive Teacher Kit containing a guidebook, worksheets, stickers and all the materials needed for each class. Be sure to coach your volunteers on appropriate dress, speaking to clients respectfully, interactive participation and adhering to the same codes of conduct full-time nonprofit employees are held to.

3) Impact & Results – “What impact will my time investment make?”

Show your volunteers some love by showing their impactVolunteers want to know that their time is going into meaningful work and a worthy cause that changes lives. Thus, nonprofits should be sure to track results, and capture and present meaningful data validating their work. Using some JA statistics as a reference point, external evaluators have found that students who participate in JA demonstrate better critical thinking, problem solving skills, collaborative team-work, understand the value of education and work harder at school. 77% matriculated straight to college immediately after high school! Read more on the impact of JA… and feel free to contact JA in your area.

ChiChi is a Business Services & H.R Consultant working to advance education, literacy, poverty mitigation and people empowerment especially for domestic violence victims, immigrants and disadvantaged groups. She also volunteers with the Literacy Council of Seattle as Board Director of Development and Governance, the Grameen Foundation in its Bankers without Borders Corps and supports other causes in the U.S. and Africa.