How to Engage Youth Volunteers

How to engage youth volunteers

Young people can be one of the most valuable resources in a volunteer organization — but many administrators struggle to engage teen volunteers. Teens and kids can breathe fresh life into events and bring new ideas to the table for volunteer groups, schools, and entire communities. Plus, they have many reasons to help.

With the right strategies, you can recruit young volunteers and leverage their unique skills to further your cause.

The Value of Engaging Youth Volunteers

Many organizations overlook the value of teenagers volunteering, but they have unique perspectives and skills to offer, such as:

Many organizations overlook the value of teenagers volunteering, but they have unique perspectives and skills to offer, such as: energy and enthusiasm; fresh ideas; a need to build skills
  • Energy and enthusiasm: Kids and teens like to have fun. If you structure volunteer opportunities around their excitement, you can use it to build energy and drive your goals forward. Young volunteers can add vibrancy and excitement to a group.
  • Fresh ideas: Gen Z grew up in an entirely different world. They often have new ideas about how to get things done, potentially sparking growth in a stagnant space.
  • A need to build skills: While teens prepare for college or the workforce, they seek opportunities to build their skills, beef up their resumes, and collect volunteer hours for school requirements. Youth volunteers might even help with more intense, project-based work such as summer-long internships.

Volunteering teenagers also reap the benefits — they’re 25% less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t volunteer.

While young people benefit from volunteering, so does the community. Young people involved in service-learning are more likely to engage with communities, vote, and/or run for office. By engaging youth volunteers, you can help build the next generation of civilly engaged citizens and empower these individuals to make a difference. 

How to Recruit Young Volunteers

Despite the value of young volunteers, many organizations have trouble reaching them. Some common problems involve awareness efforts, generational biases, and the types of roles available. Here are some ideas for recruiting young volunteers.

1. Emphasize the Impact

Sure, students might sign up to get some extra credit at school or volunteer hours, but they should also see the purpose behind the work. Show them your impact and share your success through stories, photos, and videos.

2. Make Information Easy to Find

Your website is the first place most young people will go if they’re curious about volunteering. They may give up if they can’t find information there or the process is too difficult. This thinking applies everywhere you communicate with the general public, such as posting about new opportunities. Tell youth volunteers when your opportunities are open to them, and clarify any age limits.

The more information, the better, especially for young people who might be unfamiliar with volunteering. Tell teenagers volunteering what to expect, such as what to wear, how they’ll sign up for shifts, and what you might have them do. If a student can’t volunteer due to a busy schedule, give them other ways to help, like hosting an online fundraiser or spreading the word.

3. Partner With Local Organizations

Many schools require volunteer hours or encourage participation. Partner with local schools and other kid-focused organizations to promote your opportunities. They might also have some suggestions for recruiting young volunteers in the student body.

4. Connect Through Social Media

Gen Z knows its way around the internet, so meet them there. You don’t need to develop an intense marketing strategy, but you should be active online. Make regular posts about your activities, and be sure to create a business page where people can contact you. Craft your posts to appeal to younger audiences with these internet-posting best practices. You’ll get the hang of it quickly, or you could assign this task to a young volunteer.

5. Leverage the Social Element

Kids and teens often enjoy using volunteer events to be social — you can use that to your advantage. Knowing friends will attend creates some positive peer pressure, and it may help nervous volunteers feel more at ease about a new experience.

Encourage existing teen volunteers to bring their friends, or ask them for ideas about how you can connect with their peers. Try talking to school clubs, sports teams, and local church youth groups, especially if you offer opportunities that align with their missions. You can even link up with student social media managers at schools for help promoting your opportunities. Online schedules can also be helpful since they allow volunteers to see who else will be working at events.

Supporting Young Volunteers With Digital Tools

During and after recruitment, easy-to-use digital resources are crucial for engaging the younger generation. Gen Z grew up with digital tools at every turn, so they’re more comfortable with technology and familiar with the advantages of it. For example, a volunteer management platform can allow them to submit an application or pick up opportunities from a smartphone — no uncomfortable phone calls or slow emails required.

Engaging youth volunteers with a modern system, familiar channels, and easy access points can help them stay involved and effectively coordinate with the organization.

Tips for Engaging Teen Volunteers

This demographic requires unique considerations, so remember these tips for engaging youth volunteers as you work with them.

1. Address Misconceptions

Older volunteers might have unhelpful ideas about young people being lazy or not committed, but many youth volunteers work hard, commit to the role, and truly want to make an impact.

Teenagers like to have fun and frequently use their phones, which older volunteers might see as drawbacks. But if you can turn these “negatives” into positives and communicate them with your team, you can facilitate collaboration and create a more supportive environment for young volunteers. Point out their energy and ability to use new tools, and actively work against any negative stereotypes or misconceptions your team might have.

Focus on fostering an inclusive environment for all ages.

2. Create Targeted Roles

If your only volunteer opportunities are built for adults, they may not engage teen volunteers or allow them to excel. Review your opportunities and look for jobs tailored to youth volunteers’ skills and interests. For example, have them plan an event, manage your social media accounts, or find outreach opportunities in the community.

Another great way to bridge the gap for volunteering teenagers is to create events designed for them, like a day of service for students from a school.

3. Provide a Helping Hand

We’ve all had the feeling of being alone in a new experience. Assign someone to greet new volunteers and be their point of contact for general questions. Pick someone with a warm demeanor. Another volunteering teenager could be a good choice.

4. Adapt to Teen Schedules

One of the most common reasons people don’t volunteer is having a busy schedule, which is especially relevant for teens who often have school, sports, clubs, and part-time jobs to contend with. Offer opportunities that work around these demands, such as short and weekend shifts. Look for opportunities to have busy teens do virtual work, like social media efforts or clerical tasks they can do at any time.

5. Create a Rewarding Volunteer Experience for Young People

Our last tip is to find ways to engage youth volunteers by making the experience as rewarding as possible:

  • Provide independence and autonomy in how they contribute.
  • Give them a voice in decision-making.
  • Include elements that appeal to them, like music and time to socialize.
  • Be kind and understanding when they make mistakes.

Empower and Engage Your Youth Volunteers With the Right Strategies

Recruiting young volunteers can dramatically impact your organization, the community, and the futures of these young people. Try the strategies we’ve discussed to engage and recruit youth volunteers and maximize your impact.

Volgistics can help through modern volunteer management software that supports teams of all ages. Simplify recruiting and onboarding with online applications, an opportunity directory, hours tracking, and a self-service volunteer portal. 

Schedule your live demo today to see Volgistics in action and boost engagement with youth volunteers!

Empower and engage your youth volunteers. Schedule your live demo to see Volgistics in action and boost engagement with youth volunteers!