Monthly Archives: April 2016

5 Reasons Youth Volunteers Make Better Hires

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4.28.16-5-Reasons-Youth-Volunteers-Make-Better-HiresWith summer just around the corner, businesses everywhere are looking for summer help. Teens can be great assets as camp counselors, lifeguards, nannies, grocery store baggers and thousands of other jobs. We may be a bit biased, but we’re confident that the very best teen employees are youth who have volunteered.

Here’s 5 reasons why:

  1. 1. They know how to work hard.

    Anyone who has spent time bent over, picking up trash at a local park without getting paid understands the value of a hard day’s work. Youth Volunteers will take this same work ethic to their first paid job.

  2. 2. They can take direction.

    Youth Volunteers have had to learn how to work under different kinds of managers, so they know how to take direction from a variety of authorities and work as a team with diverse workstyles.

  3. 3. They can work with a wide variety of people.

    Employers need workers who can present themselves professionally to all kinds of customers and work as a team with their fellow employees. Luckily, Youth Volunteers have been practicing all these skills for years. Volunteers have direct contact with the clients they’re serving, whether those clients are 4 or 94 years old.

  4. 4. They know the importance of making a commitment.

    When a volunteer project is depending on you, you’ve got to keep your commitment. You need to show up on time because the agency and your fellow volunteers are depending on you, and they’ll carry over this same commitment level to their first job.

  5. 5. They can roll with the punches.

    No job goes exactly as planned, so flexibility and adaptability are hugely important skills for employees to have. Here’s what Youth Volunteer Joy says volunteering has taught her about this: “I’ve learned how to adapt, approach and communicate with people of different beliefs, mindsets, and styles of communication and learned to be patient in these situations.”

Next time you’re looking to hire a new employee, make sure to ask about their service experience!

Looking for even more ways volunteering can help your career? Check out our post of 20 Skills You Learn Volunteering That Can Help You Get a Job.

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3 Simple Youth Fundraisers

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Looking for simple ways to raise money for a youth service project or youth group trip? Here are three fun ideas that youth can take the lead on:

  1. 1. Flamingo Flocking Fundraiser

Instructions: Buy a pack of 10 pink plastic flamingos. (You can buy them at Wal-Mart.) Choose 10 yards in which to place the flamingos, and think of family friends, neighbors, coaches, etc. that would find it funny. Put cards on the flamingos that state that for a $10 donation, you will remove the flamingos, but for a $15 donation, you will move the flamingos to a yard of their choice. (State that you will remove the flamingos for free in case a community member does not want to donate.) Be sure to include the phone number and email address of a contact person on each card. Place the flamingos in the yards overnight, and wait for morning to see your hard work pay off!

Hint: If the flamingo flocking takes off in your town, you can offer $10 “Pink Flamingo Insurance” to community members. The insurance will protect their yard from a pink flamingo invasion.

  1. 2. The Money Wall Fundraiser

Instructions: Place 200 envelopes, numbered $1-$200, on a wall. Post a sign on the wall inviting community members to place a donation that corresponds to the envelope amount in each envelope.  Have youth create a colorful display about what you’re raising money for to include on the wall. Locate your Money Wall in a well-traveled spot, such as the main entrance of your school, church or organization.

Here are some numbers to get you excited about this fundraiser:

100 envelopes filled ($1-$100 amounts) = $5,050

150 envelopes filled =$11,325

200 envelopes filled = $20,100

  1. 3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding utilizes youth’s social media skills by raising money through an online platform. First, set up an account with a crowdfunding website ( and are two options). Both websites allow you to set up a nonprofit fundraising account where you can explain your project and enter your monetary goals. Second, share the link to your account with all your youth. Direct everyone to blast their social media accounts with this link and ask parents to share, too. When sharing on social media, explain why you’re excited about the cause you’re raising money for, and invite friends and family to donate at the link.

Looking for more ideas about fundraisers led by teens? Check out our original list of 10 Simple Fundraising Ideas for Youth.
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10 (MORE) Ways to Thank Youth Volunteers

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Happy National Volunteer Week! Make sure to take a moment to thank the inspiring Youth Volunteers in your life this week and throughout the year.

Need some ideas? Check out our first list of 10 Ways to Thank Youth Volunteers. We also asked our International Youth Advisory Board how they appreciate being thanked for their service for 10 new ideas:

  1. 1. Our youth all agreed that the best thank-you is receiving an award for their service. This doesn’t have to be a fancy trophy or anything. What they appreciate is earning an award or honor that they can list on college and scholarship applications, so just a simple certificate to designate a meaningful distinction can be perfect!
  2. 2. Host a fun teambuilding outing for a group of volunteers. Youth Volunteer Corps of Alpena, MI, recently invited a group of their Youth Volunteers for a fun night of laser tag. They invited youth who had completed a certain number of service hours. Worried about the cost? Ask around to family fun centers, movie theaters, etc. to see if these businesses might donate an hour of fun to these deserving youth.
  3. 3. Make sure youth are able to serve on meaningful projects where they can truly see the impact. This may not seem like a way to say thank-you, but our youth board said that simply seeing the looks on the people’s faces they are serving is the best thank-you!
  4. 4. Create a video or slideshow at the end of the year or service opportunity with funny and memorable moments from the project. Try to make sure that all volunteers involved make the video. For a shorter-term project, make a photo collage of 3-4 photos and print a 4×6 copy for every volunteer.
  5. 5. Host an end-of-year banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. Don’t worry about making it too elaborate. Even a potluck dinner can be a fun way for youth to celebrate their accomplishments. This is a great way to give out any awards or honors for specific volunteers.
  6. 6. You can’t go wrong with offering snacks or lunch as a thank-you. These are always appreciated!
  7. 7. Offer immediate and specific praise when individual volunteers are doing a great job. This can help build confidence and even develop skills for the job when youth know that they’re doing a great job at a specific task.
  8. 8. Send a quick thank-you note!
  9. 9. Offer a shout-out on social media to the volunteers. Tag either the program they were serving with or individual volunteers where appropriate.
  10. 10. Ask for the youth’s feedback and ideas on new programming or a future project. This helps youth see that their input is valuable and helps create lasting change.

How do you thank your volunteers? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Did you miss our first post on thanking Youth Volunteers? Make sure to read those great ideas too!
How to Thank Youth Volunteers

Finding Your Passion: Animals

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3.23.16 Finding Your Passion

Do you love working with dogs and cats? Projects serving with animals are always one of the quickest types of Youth Volunteer Corps projects to fill up, so we know it’s something tons of our volunteers are passionate about. If you’ve discovered a passion for making a difference in this way, here’s how you can go even deeper.

Need to Know

Animal overpopulation is a serious problem. Experts aren’t sure exactly how many dogs and cats live in the U.S., but estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. According to the ASPCA, each year approximately 7.6 million animals end up in shelters, and nearly 3 million don’t make it out.

What’s even more surprising is how quickly the animal population grows if pets aren’t spayed or neutered. Fertile cats produce an average of 1 to 2 litters of kittens each year, with an average of 4 to 6 kittens per litter. Fertile dogs produce an average of one litter a year, with an average of 4 to 6 puppies per litter. That means that two dogs or cats can become thousands within just a few years, and many of these pets will end up in shelters.

Another problem is that nearly one in five animals that enter a home are no longer in that home six months later, according to the American Humane Association. People give up pets for all kinds of reasons, but all of this creates more strain on our shelter system.

Des Moines - Animal Lifeline of Iowa 3.9.16 (1)
Take Action

You probably can’t adopt an entire shelter full of pets, so what can you do to help alleviate the animal overpopulation problem?

  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter to help walk dogs, socialize cats, clean kennels, help with adoptions and more. Just an hour a week can make a huge difference for these animals.
  • If your family and living situation allows it, adopt a pet from a shelter. Adopting instead of purchasing an animal from a breeder or even a friend who allowed their pet to reproduce is the first step to helping the animal overpopulation problem.
  • Make sure that any pets that you do have are spayed and neutered. Don’t let cost be a barrier here—most communities have options for low-cost and even free clinics to perform this essential procedure.
  • Educate others about the animal overpopulation problem and how they can do their part.
  • Hold a dog wash to raise money or collect supplies for local animal shelters—Do Something has all the info you need to do this.
  • Host a dog toy making party to create toys to donate to a local shelter—Do Something tells you everything you need to know for this too.
Make it a Career

Do you love animals so much that you want to make your career working with them? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Veterinarian or veterinary technician
  • Work at an animal shelter (Shelters need all kinds of staff to stay afloat, so you could be a volunteer coordinator, accountant, marketing staff, or more)
  • Animal behaviorist or pet trainer
  • Wildlife rehabilitator
  • Pet groomer
  • Animal therapist

How have you used your love of animals to make a difference? Share your story in the comments!

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3 Things that Ruin Service-Learning

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Service-learning can be the difference between a mediocre service project and a memorable and transformative one. It can help youth understand the impact of their work and how it is affecting their community. But when it’s done wrong, it can sometimes do more harm than good.

Next time you’re planning a community-based service-learning project, make sure to avoid the following:

  1. 1. Too academic – When youth sign up for a volunteer project outside of school, they want it to be exactly that—different than school. They don’t mind learning something; in fact, learning new things and expanding their horizons is often listed by youth as a top benefit of being involved with Youth Volunteer Corps! The difference is how they learn. Use interactive techniques such as a simulation or game that help youth learn about an issue without it feeling like school.
  2. 2. Adults dominating the process – Service-learning should be youth-led whenever possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that youth need to be the sole planners and facilitators (although that’s great too!). It means that youth need to be involved throughout the process, planning the project, identifying the cause they are focusing on, and steering the reflection process to ensure that the takeaways are interesting and useful to youth.
  3. 3. Missing the follow-up – There’s no use planning the best service-learning project if youth aren’t encouraged to take further action afterward and given clear steps to do so. Encourage them to sign up for a future service project to continue the learning, whether through your youth service program or as an individual at the agency where your project served. Discuss what kinds of career options exist working on this issue area. You can also brainstorm simple ways that they can keep the service going, like holding a drive at their school to collect items to help this agency out.

Looking for more tips on how to make your service-learning projects the best they can be? Browse the Project Tips section of our blog.

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