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HOW TO: Engage Youth in Summer Volunteerism

June 10, 2010

The recent heat wave is a reminder that summer is right around the corner and with it, summer vacation and student volunteers. Today’s youth is a valuable resource of potential volunteers because of their acute awareness of the effects of globalization; young people are virtually plugged into the world of social media and the Internet. These happen to be major hurdles for many nonprofits. This is especially true for those agencies that are still struggling to get in touch with today’s digital way of life, and appeal to groups of volunteers and clients faster and more cost-effectively.

Many students, both high school and college, are in need of employment during the summer months. Many will be turning to volunteerism, especially with President Obama’s Call to Action media campaign and the job shortages all across the country. It is therefore time to start taking students seriously and utilizing their skills to your advantage. The following is a list of some helpful tips to assist you, at least in the beginning, in engaging students as volunteers this coming summer:

  • You must be present on the internet to attract today’s youth, so be sure to post opportunities online. Work through Volunteer Match or other Internet-matching services like TVC’s website,
  • Respond promptly to volunteer inquiries. Many students apply for multiple positions and might therefore commit to an agency that responds to them the fastest.
  • Frame opportunities and issues that are relevant to youth. Let them know that they will be making a difference in your organization and beyond.
  • Offer pertinent experiences and concrete skills. Many students are looking for volunteer opportunities that will develop their skills and allow them to hone their knowledge in a particular area, whether it is marketing, writing, or human resources.
  • Use language like fast, fun, and innovative when describing your opportunities and interviewing potential volunteers.
  • Have visuals that attract youth, whether on your website or next to the volunteer opportunity.
  • Vary your online positions. Change the titles and descriptions every few weeks in order to maintain interest in your agency.

Here are a few tips for the management of student volunteers:

  • Invite student volunteer input into the development of a project. Let them know that they can contribute their ideas and thoughts to your cause.
  • Provide leadership roles, such as team and project leaders. Many college or graduate school applications, as well as employers, are looking for concrete leadership skills, so students are particularly interested in gaining leadership experience.
  • Accommodate different levels of knowledge and sophistication. For example, provide different tasks for college-level students vs. high school students.
  • Place student volunteers with staff members who will respect, facilitate, encourage, and mentor them.
  • Offer some sort of training to youth team leaders.
  • Encourage an environment that engages your student volunteers in the mission of your organization. Work with your staff and adult volunteers to create a supportive and inviting organization.

For additional resources, check out the following:

This story was originally published in “Volunteer Management Monthly,” a newsletter published by The Volunteer Center. For more information, tips, and resources, view the full newsletter. You can also view the current issue or subscribe online.


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