3 Ways Charitable Organizations Can Better Recruit Youth Volunteers
Only a handful of nonprofit organizations have programs geared toward kids, and this makes it difficult for interested youth to find appropriate volunteer opportunities. As a kid myself, I can guarantee that we want to get involved. We want to become youth volunteers. We find value in our communities.
In fact, helping my community was one of the reasons why I started my own nonprofit, Kids4Community. I wanted to introduce other kids to the concept of charitable work and provide opportunities for them to give back, too.
Recruiting young volunteers can revive charitable organizations that have lost momentum. After all, we bring a new energy to nonprofit services. And as a kid who runs a nonprofit, I’ve seen firsthand what youth volunteers can do.
Breathe in New Life
There’s this special, positive vibe that kids carry when we volunteer. For example, at a recent Kids4Community dinner, a 3-year-old served drinks to clients housed at an Interfaith Community Services shelter. She was constantly smiling and bragging about her toys, and she cheered up everyone who came to get a beverage. As kids, we have a unique way of lifting the spirits of those around us. So depending on the type of volunteer work you're doing, keep in mind that just our presence can be really beneficial to your cause.
In addition, take a look at the youth volunteers at Mount’s Intergenerational Learning Center. You can probably tell by the name that it’s not your average, everyday nursing home. It has a preschool inside, where kids 5 years and younger interact with residents. This nonprofit childcare center was established to combat the loneliness and boredom that often comes with life in senior living facilities. I think this is a great way to involve even the youngest of kids in the world of nonprofit work.
If you need even more convincing of why we are great members of nonprofit initiatives, consider this: Kids are often happier than adults. Nothing is really competing for our attention, and we know how to be in the moment. When people are happier, they tend to work more efficiently, too. However, nonprofits shouldn’t seek out younger volunteers just for our cheerfulness. Rather, nonprofits should find value in the dedication that we bring.
If you don't already have a plan in place to recruit members of younger generations, now is a good time to start.
3 Ways to Reel in Youth Volunteers
Even if you have a strong group of adult volunteers at your nonprofit, keep in mind that attracting youth volunteers comes with its own challenges. Running a nonprofit myself has provided me insights on how to get fellow youth members involved, and it usually starts with the following steps:
1. Add fun twists to your events.
Community service doesn’t have to be boring. As simple as it sounds, adding a fun twist to an event can attract many youth volunteers. At our last event, a beach cleanup, we had a game of Bingo where, if you collected a certain number trash items, you won a prize. Or when you found something odd, you could have it judged to see whether it was prize-worthy.
Before your next event, brainstorm with your nonprofit team to come up with game-like activities that will push your mission forward while still keeping kids interested in the activity. This way, you can do a lot of good while still having a ton of fun.
2. Use ads on social media.
Although it costs money, an ad on social media is a great way to recruit youth volunteers and their families. Facebook might be the obvious choice, but 17 percent of teenagersrank Instagram as the most important social site, so don't forget to invest efforts there, too.
At Kids4Community, we use ads on both our Facebook and Instagram accounts to bring in support. You can make your ads more effective by setting them to specific locations and target audiences so you can be confident that your ad reaches the right people. This method has helped us get hundreds of volunteers for our events over the past couple of years who we probably wouldn't have connected with otherwise.
3. Enlist volunteer youth ambassadors.
Kids know how to get other kids to do something. That’s why embracing youth influencers or ambassadors at your nonprofit is so important. In fact, 70 percent of teenssay they trust influencers more than traditional celebrities.
Find youth willing to take on this role by creating eye-catching and easy-to-understand social media posts and flyers. Talk with principals and teachers at local schools to see whether the youth ambassador information can be distributed to classes, or hang up posters on community bulletin boards in libraries and coffee shops. At Kids4Community, we now have kid ambassadors who go around San Diego advertising our events through word of mouth. They have helped us fill up events and increase our volunteer database.
Make no mistake: Youth volunteers, like myself, are the future of nonprofits. Our energy and dedication can help a charitable organization grow in ways that uniquely connect with the community at large. By using the steps above, you can start recruiting young volunteers to your nonprofit's efforts, and you might be pleasantly surprised that we are serious in our efforts and perhaps wiser beyond our years.
Kenan Pala is the 13-year-old founder of Kids4Community, a nonprofit that helps kids and their families give back to their communities in meaningful ways. Kenan also founded Kids Tri Hard, a clothing line that provides more affordable clothing options for youth triathletes.