With Volunteers Week a matter of days away, I thought I would focus on the benefits of engaging with young volunteers and put out a week of themed posts and the benefits of doing so!
Young people may want to get involved in volunteering for a number of reasons:
- to increase their confidence
- to gain knowledge, skills or experience
- to develop social skills and other ‘soft skills’
- as a route to personal development
- to enhance their employability and gaining vital experience to increase their job prospects
- to access further education
Your organisation could be missing out on the advantages of having young people involved who can bring their own fresh and youthful dynamic to organisations if you don’t involve them!
Indeed, your project may be unintentionally discriminating against younger people volunteering.
So what do younger volunteers want exactly?
- Shorter term projects with more flexibility tend to be more popular
- They may want to have more of a say in what they’re doing
- Or be able to move around between different areas
- If you can organise something where your young volunteers can work with their friends or in groups, then you’re more likely to keep them motivated for longer
We’re not expecting organisations to go outside the aims and mission of their organisation to involve young people, just to think about the potential of involving younger volunteers and the possibilities they may generate.
It needs to be well thought out and planned before you involve younger volunteers. You also need to ask yourself if it would be appropriate for the services you offer, or clients you support. Many organisations simply don’t think of involving volunteers under 21, as they have never done so in the past. It could be a real culture change to do so, but why not at least consider it and discuss it with your colleagues?
It may be that you have been thinking about doing a certain project for a while, but need some new ideas or volunteers to help it along.
It can be about involving young people in a role that suits the organisation, but the way you do it might be different. For example, you might break up the volunteer role so it can be done in shorter slots. Say you have a Marketing Volunteer role, you could maybe break it down into various sub roles e.g. updating the website, producing a newsletter or social media. Many young people have great IT skills, so why not put them to good use? It’s not about thinking of completely new roles for young people, just adapting them.
The key to successful placements is matching interests to roles. Use the young person’s interests as a springboard. If the young person has come to you, that’s even better. Find out what attracted them to your organisation in the first place, why they chose you in particular and what they are hoping to get out of it. That’s the secret to a successful placement, making sure the young person is actually interested and you can maintain that interest.