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

Author: Sayana Izmailova
December 18, 2023
🕑 5 min read

Ever wonder why some nonprofit organizations keep growing and flourishing for decades, while others seem to dwindle as time passes? Passionate and committed volunteers fuel the health of your organization. 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 and capable hands.

Read on to find out why young volunteers are crucial to your organization’s success and how to attract, recruit, and engage them. Let’s dive in!

Why Recruit Young Volunteers?

Young volunteers bring unique ideas, passion, and energy to your organization. They tend to be more technologically savvy and 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.

Research has named Gen Z the most generous in donating their time to charity. A survey found that around 63% of respondents up to the age of 25 said that they have volunteered for a charity in some way, compared to 55% of millennial respondents. This means nonprofits without a Gen Z outreach strategy miss out on a volunteer goldmine.

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How Do I Find Young Volunteers?

The key to finding young volunteers is to meet them where they are. Recent research indicates that nearly 9 in 10 U.S. Gen Z adults spend an hour on social media every day, with more time dedicated to Instagram and TikTok than Facebook. With this in mind, Getting Attention’s digital marketing guide recommends these best practices for using social media to find volunteers:

  • Leverage multiple features on Instagram and TikTok, including posts, stories, reels, influencer spots, and paid ads. 
  • Instagram and TikTok content are highly sharable, so consider posting regularly and responding to comments as they pop up.
  • Use video marketing to share volunteer testimonials or a day in the life of a volunteer to inspire your followers to sign up. 
  • Vary your content types with volunteer quotes, spotlights, videos, and behind-the-scenes content, including a clear call to action to volunteer. 

Although a great place to start, social media volunteer outreach methods aren’t the only ones that can produce results. Other reliable methods include:

  • Posting about your organization on your local volunteer boards.
  • Partnering with church youth groups and other youth-centric programs in your area.
  • Partnering 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’ll post volunteer opportunities).

Be sure to include volunteer information at your fundraising events to enable participants to sign up for future opportunities. You can do this by setting up a volunteer booth, having a volunteer speaker highlight upcoming events, and linking to your volunteer sign-up forms in your event promotional materials.

How Do I Recruit Young Volunteers?

Before you share your volunteer opportunities, look at your recruitment and training process. Someone may intend to volunteer with you, but they might change their mind if they find the sign-up process too complicated 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.
  • 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, management, and career development opportunities.
  • Encourage everyone interested to sign up, regardless of 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.
  • Create volunteer job descriptions and calls to action that are simple and easy to read.
  • Streamline the sign-up process with an online form on your website or a Google Form to make it easy for young volunteers to get involved.

If you already have a few young volunteers, consider asking for their feedback on your current recruitment and engagement process. Funds2Orgs’ volunteer recruitment guide suggests surveying current volunteers to get a feel for how they first heard about your organization, the most rewarding roles, and their thoughts about your onboarding process. You can then use their responses to refine your volunteer outreach.

How Do I Motivate Young Volunteers?

Once you’ve recruited your new volunteers, take them through an onboarding process. This will familiarize them 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 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. 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 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 engaged 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. Friends love volunteering together, so if you can help make that happen, they’ll be much more motivated to do a great job and return to work with you.
  • If possible, let them self-select into roles and tasks they’re most interested in doing. If they’re unsure what they enjoy or are good at, allow them to try 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 their work. If they make a mistake, help them see it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure.

Above all else, show volunteers your appreciation and remind them how much your organization needs volunteers like them. Write personalized cards, host gratitude events, and offer recognition opportunities to motivate volunteers and remind them they are valued. 

Read More: Volunteer Training for Nonprofits

By following these strategies, you can successfully tap into the next generation of volunteers. Just remember to stay open to new outreach methods and promote your volunteer programs as meaningful ways to give back and develop new skills. You’ve got this!

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