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Guest 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.