Youth Volunteers can be a great way to boost energy at an organization—and get a lot done. Especially for small nonprofits with limited resources, youth can provide enthusiasm and excitement while contributing in a large way to the organization’s mission. But it’s not just the agency that benefits with Youth Volunteers—the youth also win 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 will be a win-win situation for both you and the volunteers if you keep these eight tips in mind:
1. First Impression
It’s very likely that this experience may be the first time that a youth 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Train on New Skills
With youth unemployment still high, volunteering is a great way for youth to gain job skills. Talk with individual Youth Volunteers to see what skills they would like to gain from their volunteer experience, and provide opportunities for them to learn.
5. Capitalize on Strengths
On the flipside, take advantage of skills that youth already have. Youth are the most tapped into social networking, so they can be a great resource if you’re looking to expand your social media presence. Agencies can also benefit from taking time to understand the youth perspective and connecting that into their programming.
6. Offer Structure
Make sure to organize youth projects with a lot of structure. Bored Youth Volunteers can lead to problems for everyone. Very often at YVC we find that our agency partners underestimate the amount of work a group of dedicated Youth Volunteers can accomplish. Setting high expectations and making a detailed schedule with plenty of extra tasks can solve this problem.
7. 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.
8. 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 lifetime ally for your organization. We’ve had many Youth Volunteers choose to enter the nonprofit field or focus on an area like education or social work because of their initial volunteer experience.
Ready to jump into youth volunteerism? Find a YVC near you and schedule a project!