02 May 2006
by Joanne Fritz
They are motivated, energetic, and strong. They are youth volunteers and could be a great resource for your organization. But, they can be a challenge to recruit and retain. The key is to put yourself into their shoes and think young. Here are our top tips.
1) Recruit them online
Today's youth is wired, to the extreme. Use online volunteer matching services such as Volunteer Match. Post opportunities on your own website but change them frequently so your pages look fresh and appealing. Respond immediately to inquiries.
2) Speak in a youthful way
Make your opportunities relevant to the interests and needs of young people. Young people like language that is quick, fun, and exciting. Emphasize involvement and how they can contribute.
3) Use youthful visuals
Use lots of photos and quotes from other young people. Develop an advisory group of young people to help you with this aspect of your marketing.
4) Develop competitions and games
Young people love competition and games so develop them to use in your recruitment efforts, your training, and when your volunteers are actually performing their tasks. Healthy competition will add zest and excitement to the work your young volunteers do.
5) Develop a speakers service
Put together a group of young speakers who can recruit their peers. Arrange speaking engagements at schools and churches.
6) Develop teamwork
Develop teams among your youth volunteers and train team leaders. Encourage group participation and let your volunteers learn from each other.
7) Provide mentors
Find adults to work with your young volunteers that they can identify with. Use young adults who are natural mentors and role models.
8) Encourage participation
Let young volunteers participate at every level. Listen and then act on their suggestions. They will not trust you if you invite engagement and then ignore their input.
9) Appreciate your youth volunteers
If you don't truly appreciate the contributions of young volunteers, don't even bother. Young people are shrewd detectors of bull and will demand honesty and behaviour that matches your rhetoric. Walk the talk.
10) Reward frequently
Don't wait for a special event. Provide verbal feedback consistently and make sure you bring in lots of food. Most of all, have fun. Even if the work is serious, make sure that you throw in some pleasure.
(Joanne Fritz is a Guide on About.com.)