Skip to main content

Why Your Organization Needs Young Volunteers + How to Recruit and Motivate Them

Author: Sayana Izmailova
August 20, 2021
🕑 7 min read

Ever wonder why some nonprofit organizations keep growing and flourishing for decades, while others seem to dwindle as time passes?

The health of your organization is fueled by the people who make up your community — members, donors, staff, volunteers, and board members. If they all belong to the same generation, your organization will age right along with them. But if you make an effort to attract younger generations — and engrain these efforts into your culture — your organization will always remain in energetic, capable, and passionate hands.

While members of your community take on many different roles, in this post, let’s talk about volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit — without their time and talent, it would be impossible to advance your mission and create change.

So can recruiting younger volunteers really help the longevity of your organization? Absolutely!

Read on to find out why young volunteers are crucial to your organization’s success, as well as how to attract, recruit, and motivate them.

Let’s dive in!

Why Recruit Young Volunteers?

When you recruit volunteers from a young age, you foster in them a lifelong commitment to giving back and helping their communities. As they get older and grow into more power to act on that commitment, imagine the change they’ll be able to create.

Not to mention, young volunteers often bring a fresh perspective, passion, and energy to your organization. They tend to be more technologically savvy and more open to new ideas, meaning they can help drive positive change and create new opportunities for improvement.

Is it just their age that makes young volunteers such great recruits? Not entirely. It may also have something to do with the generation they belong to.

Today’s youth make up a generation called Gen Z, which includes people born between 1997 and 2012. Believe it or not, this generation is often referred to as “Philanthrokids” or “Philanthroteens”, and for good reason!

Gen Zs are acutely aware of the issues our world faces. Not only that, but they’re also determined to make a difference, realizing that their future is in their own hands.

8 in 10 Gen Zs report wanting to make a positive impact on the world during their lifetime. More than any other generation before them, they actively volunteer, save money, and donate it to causes they’re passionate about.

What Can Young Volunteers Do?

Age doesn’t discriminate on a job well done. Motivated and engaged young volunteers can do most tasks that adult volunteers can — some often do a better job, too!

No matter the task you’re assigning to your young volunteers, be sure to provide clear instructions and ample training. If your volunteers are under 18, make sure their parents or guardians understand the scope of work and have given their written permission.

Keep in mind, too, that many younger volunteers might not have a driver’s license or access to a vehicle, so avoid asking them to get to a remote location for their shift or do a job that requires driving.

What Attracts Young People to Volunteer?

Young people, Gen Zs especially, are quite interested in volunteering. Though it’s true that many states make community service a requirement in high school, that’s not the only reason someone might wish to volunteer.

Here are a few others:

  • They hope to make a positive difference in their community. For example, someone volunteering at a homeless shelter does so because they wish to offer a helping hand to those living on the streets.
  • They want to get involved in something they’re passionate about. For example, someone who loves literature might volunteer at a literary festival.
  • They want to develop soft skills. Volunteering often involves teamwork, good communication, problem solving under pressure, and opportunities to stretch leadership skills.
  • They’re looking for work experience. Young people often face the age-old dilemma — they can’t get a job without work experience and they can’t get experience without a job. Well, volunteering is the perfect solution. It looks great on a resume and can help land their first paying job.
  • They’re looking to get references. Volunteers often get the opportunity to work closely and develop a relationship with their supervisor, whose positive feedback could help them get a paying job or their next volunteering opportunity.
  • They’re looking to volunteer with friends. Volunteering is even better when you can do it with friends, so when someone gets involved with an organization, they often ask their friends to sign up, as well.

How Do I Find Young Volunteers?

Young volunteers are out there and ready to help. The key to finding them is to meet them where they are. Here are a few places to look:

  • Post about your organization on your local volunteer boards.
  • Regularly post a call for volunteers on your social media, making sure your message is engaging and shareable. When you tell your story in a way that makes the readers care about your organization and the work you do, they’ll be much more likely to sign up or maybe even share the post with their own social networks.
  • Partner with youth groups and programs in your area.
  • Partner with local high schools and universities (for example, if you run a literary festival, message the English department at a local university to see if they post volunteer opportunities).
  • Ask your current volunteers if they have a child or know someone who might be interested in getting involved.

How Do I Recruit Young Volunteers?

Before you set out to share your volunteer opportunities, take a look at your recruitment process. Someone may have every intention of volunteering with you, but they might change their mind if they find the sign-up process too difficult or confusing to navigate.

Here are a few tips for successfully recruiting young volunteers:

  • Create a young volunteer landing page on your website — potential volunteers will feel welcome knowing there’s a volunteer program just for them. Make this page easy to find and navigate.
  • Feature photos of young volunteers on your website to make it clear that your organization has a community they can join.
  • Entice young volunteers by offering networking, mentorship, and career development opportunities.
  • Encourage everyone who’s interested to sign up, regardless of their age, availability, ability to travel, etc. Let them know that your volunteer opportunities are flexible and you can accommodate volunteers with busy schedules and limited access to travel.
  • Keep the volunteer opportunity descriptions, as well as the calls to action, simple and easy to read. More often than not, these will be skimmed, rather than read in detail.
  • Streamline the sign-up process with an online form on your website or a Google Form. Having to fill out paperwork, speak over the phone, or meet someone in-person just to sign up could deter a young volunteer from completing the sign-up process.

How Do I Motivate Young Volunteers?

Once you’ve recruited your new volunteers, be sure to take them through an onboarding process — this will get them familiar with your organization and each other, motivate them, and set them up for success in their roles.

Here are a few tips for motivating young volunteers during their onboarding:

  • Educate them about the impact your organization is creating, focusing on how volunteers like them help make a difference.
  • Set clear expectations right from the start — volunteers do much better (and enjoy themselves more) when they know exactly what’s going on, where they need to be, and what they’re expected to do.
  • Create a volunteer training program. Empower young volunteers to do their best work by giving them all the tools they need to succeed. If possible, recruit more experienced young volunteers to provide the training to give them an opportunity to develop their leadership skills.
  • Provide your new volunteers with a person of contact — someone they can reach out to if they have questions or need help.

Beyond onboarding, there are a few things you can do to make sure your young volunteers stay motivated and continue to have a positive experience:

  • Focus on fun — remember that they’re choosing to give your organization their time and talent, so make volunteering as enjoyable for them as possible.
  • Let friends work together. As we’ve already discussed, friends love volunteering together, so if you can help make that happen, they’ll be much more motivated to do a great job and keep coming back to work with you.
  • If possible, let them self-select into roles and tasks that they’re most interested in doing. If they’re not sure what they enjoy or what they’re good at, give them an opportunity to try out a few different things.
  • Provide them with opportunities to lead and develop other soft skills. Many young people see volunteering as a professional development opportunity, so they like to be challenged and take on new roles that will help them grow.
  • Offer positive feedback to help them feel accomplished and proud of the work they’re doing. If they make a mistake, help them see it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure.
  • Above all else, show them your appreciation and remind them how much your organization needs volunteers like them.

Read More: 8 Steps to Organize Volunteers to Maximize Impact

So there you have it! Does your organization recruit young volunteers? If not, are you now considering creating a young volunteers program? Let us know in the comments!

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!