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6 Tips To Engage Youth
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Six Tips for Engaging Youth Volunteers

Ever wondered how well your organization works with teen volunteers? Check out our volunteers' six tips on engaging, retaining, and working with youth volunteers.


Create a strong online presence

Robyn, 16

The Internet is undeniably one of the biggest outlets to reel in the youth demographic of today. Zeroing in your attention to just a few of the most prominent social websites like Facebook and Twitter allows non-profits to bring in youth free of charge on the biggest outlets on the Internet. A positive and relatable (but not trying too hard- no one likes a marketing team who thinks teens love hashtags to the point of overuse) presence online and constant use of social media accounts can definitely help increase your engagement with youth.

Don’t forget your organization’s own website can be a simple yet effective tool to engage youth too. As long as your website can be found by a simple Google search of key terms and has an easy to navigate interface, you’re good to go. One of the things I’ve found is that some non-profits forget to update their websites, leaving their information stuck in 2010 with applications dated the same way. Make sure to always keep your information up to date and provide regular updates with visuals to keep your youth volunteers informed on your mission and organization’s endeavours.


Remember they're students before they're volunteers

Katie, 16

High school students have an evident commitment during their weekdays - attending school. This has a huge impact on our availability to volunteer, and organizations should always take this into consideration when offering volunteering shifts and roles to youth. It's unfair and unrealistic to ask students to volunteer during school hours, which typically run from 9AM to 3PM. Weekday evening shifts should begin at a time that gives students ample time to get to the location from school, and should end early enough for the student to get home comfortably without risking their safety by travelling late at night.

If you want to engage youth, ensure you have shifts available during evenings (4PM-8PM), weekends, vacations like March break, long weekends, and of course, the summer. Additionally, it is important for organizations to take financial concerns into consideration, especially with high school students. Offering TTC bus tickets makes a difference.


Aim to create a positive volunteering environment

Josh, 16 

When it comes to teenagers, volunteering can be a scary thing; they are vulnerable to a setting they are not used to being a part of. The best way to overcome this is by ensuring that volunteers feel comfortable in the environment they'll be working in.

Firstly take care to match youth with roles that fit their skill set, talents, interests and level of commitment. They'll enjoy volunteering if they're doing something that they're interested in.

In addition, it may be their first time volunteering so they may not know what to expect from their new volunteer role. Always clearly explain the organization’s policies, safety procedures and the planned schedule. This way, the youth will know what to expect that day, and what is expected of them.

Also encourage open communication between staff and volunteers. Be welcoming and supportive of any concerns of your youth, especially when it comes to carrying out tasks that they don't feel comfortable doing. They should be able to speak up about anything and at any time.

Lastly, volunteering is an opportunity to meet volunteers of the same age that share similar interests. Volunteering is much more enjoyable when you're not alone. Allow your youth to interact from time to time to succeed in creating the perfect volunteering environment.


Recognize how beneficial volunteering can be as a learning experience

HyunGu, 15

Non-profits should embrace how much youth can learn from volunteering with their organization.

Most students volunteer to both foster a hobby and learn skills that they cannot learn at school. When marketing to youth applicants, emphasize the transferrable skills that volunteers can gain from the role.

And if possible, create youth leadership roles for youth who are particularly motivated and enthusiastic. Give your youth committee the license and guidance to adapt the youth volunteer program to fit the needs of both your organization and the youth volunteers themselves.


Ask for feedback..and also give it

Steven, 17

When I volunteer, knowing that I’m valued and that my opinion matters motivates me. Organizations should encourage volunteers to give feedback on their experience both during and after their term. This can be done with a survey, an exit interview, or any other way you see fit.

Furthermore, feedback can go both ways. Any positive feedback and constructive criticism on how I’m performing my role will help me grow as a volunteer. Also, it's always great to know how my contribution has made an impact! Regular one-on-one reports are great, as are organization newsletters to update your volunteers on the progress of the organization's work as whole.


Don't forget to show your appreciation

Steven, 17

We don’t generally expect anything in return for our time spent volunteering except for fond memories and a sense of altruism, but it’s always nice to get something cool! Any perks you can offer your volunteers, such as an appreciation party or concert tickets, will always brighten our days and add to our experience. And at the very least, a heartfelt "thank you" goes a long way.


Interested in recruiting youth volunteers?

We begin accepting exhibitor registrations for our annual Youth Expo in mid August. Subscribe to our Sector Space newsletter to be the first to hear.

Otherwise, make sure that when you're posting a volunteer role on our search engine, you categorize it as "Suitable for Youth."

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