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Thoughts On Embracing Younger Volunteers

Lori Halley 20 January 2014 6 comments

Last week we offered up some of the highlights from the “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” research report. As their infographic illustrates, “volunteering spans the generations” - including teenagers and Gen Xers, along with parents and older adults.

The data on teenage volunteers caught my attention, since I’d just read an interesting article on the Guardian.com, by Rebecca Brookman. In the article, Brookman suggests that many organizations avoid reaching out to young volunteers due to concerns over insurance coverage, the need for too much training and supervision. She suggests that while “some of these are valid worries, many are urban myths, but more often than not, it's just been easier for many charities to stick to the status quo than tackle the (sometimes remarkably simple) changes that are needed in order to embrace young volunteers.”

A guide to embracing younger volunteers

Brookman contends that
“Young people get dismissed as too unskilled for volunteering, but charities should support them to safeguard their future.” And she offers “A short guide to embracing young volunteers” (e.g., under 16-year olds) to help.  Here is an overview of the 6 steps Brookman includes in her "guide":
  1. Think about how current voluntary roles might be adapted for a young person
  2. Remember to take into account commitments that young people might have, for example school work ...

  3. Use technology to create new opportunities
  4. Almost all young people are familiar with new technology, software and social media. A huge range of volunteering opportunities can be created easily with this as a springboard...

  5. Don't be put off by tricky stuff like insurance or youth policies
  6. Sometimes, all it takes is a small tweak of your charity's current policy to include under-16s, and if not then perhaps they will be covered by their school or youth group's policy or award scheme….

  7. Get young people and staff prepared
  8. By developing training sessions with young people in mind, you can easily cover lots of potential issues, such as confidentiality, what it means to be a responsible volunteer, and what to do if they have any issues. ...

  9. Don't forget rewards
  10. Sounds obvious, but we all like to be appreciated. ...

  11. Shout about it
  12. If we all shout about what we are doing to support young volunteers, it will gradually become more acceptable to include young volunteers, and we can learn from one another's experiences. ...

For the full list of suggestions, you can read the full article here: Why Charities Need to Embrace Younger Volunteers.

While Brookman acknowledges that “many charities lack vital resources and capacity ... it is encouraging that, with some simple steps, a great amount can be achieved.”

What about your organization? Are you recruiting teens or younger volunteers?

Additional Resources:

If your organization is looking to recruit teens or younger volunteers (including Millennials), here is some additional information and resources that might help:

Image source:  Corporation for National & Community Service - “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” infographic

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 20 January 2014 at 8:30 AM


  • Barbara Alevras, Sage Consulting Services said:

    Monday, 20 January 2014 at 10:19 AM
    Some of the non-profits I work with discount the potential value young volunteers offer. However, I find that they bring new energy and ideas into organizations. Their enthusiasm is refreshing, but can be challenging for long-term "veteran" volunteers and even staff to embrace. It's "work" to manage them, but I don't think it's any more challenging than managing a new volunteer of any age.

    Your tips are helpful and good reminders for all. :)
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Monday, 20 January 2014 at 11:21 AM
    Barbara: Yes I agree that the energy and enthusiasm that younger volunteers bring usually makes any additional management time worthwhile.
  • Peg Jones said:

    Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:27 AM
    My engineering professional society added college student representatives to the Board of Trustees several years ago and it has been a great experience for us. They have been very responsible and helped the older trustees connect with the future of our organization while we developed the next generation of leaders. On a local level, we did a hands-on science demo at a huge science festival for families last fall. Our demo squad included two teams of adult engineers with their teenage kids. The teenagers caught on quickly and loved teaching other kids what they had learned. The kids attending the science festival paid more attention to their peers than to the grown ups.
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:46 AM
    Peg: Thanks for sharing your experiences with both college students and teenagers. Good to see the generations helping one another!
  • Lacey Helmig said:

    Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 12:23 PM
    This is great. Thanks for sharing! I'm with Youth Volunteer Corps, an organization devoted to increasing quality youth service opportunities throughout the U.S. and Canada. We believe that youth can change the world, and we love encountering other nonprofits willing to give youth this chance. One of our biggest challenges is actually convincing agencies not to underestimate all that a group of youth can do. More often than not, we accomplish everything on their list in half the time they've allocated! We hope that more nonprofits will tap into the power of youth volunteerism!
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 12:35 PM
    Lacey: Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for offering your experience with "giving youth a chance."
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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