Volunteering Families

“A growing number of charities are responding to the emerging demand for family-friendly volunteering.  Nonprofit leaders note that parents today often grew up volunteering and want their children to have that same experience.”
The above is a quote from an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, discussing the burgeoning interest in parents wanting their children to get involved in charities and community service.  One parent mentioned in the article is Heather Jack who went on to found Volunteer Family when she couldn’t find a charity willing to take her and her 5 year old daughter on as volunteers.  Here are some highlights of the advice to non-profits from the rest of the article.
  1. Take an incremental approach to bringing on young volunteers.  Time is a precious commodity, not only to you and your organization, but also to the families volunteering.  Start them out small and simple, with maybe an hour’s-worth of service.  Provide several options, too, so people can pick and choose things that fit into their schedules.
  2. Offer age-appropriate opportunities.  Young children may not be allowed to be physically involved in certain projects, like construction sites, but there are a lot of complementary things they can do.  Children can be involved in planning and designing (especially if it’s a children’s facility), helping with landscaping, and even painting murals.  Be sure to have a long-list of age-appropriate activities for kids so they feel they’re involved and safe at the same time.
  3. Recruit volunteers where families congregate.  Church would be the first place many would look for service-minded families but you can also try youth sports venues, school family events and boys and girls clubs like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and American Heritage Girls.
  4. Let young volunteers serve as spokespeople.  Let kids talk about issues that are important to them.  Kids respond to other kids.  When a child knows someone involved in a cause, they will likely want to get involved themselves.  Your young volunteers could be your best support-raisers.
  5. Don’t count out teenagers.  Even with a growing amount of high schools requiring a certain amount of community service hours to graduate, GenerationOn shows that 55% of people between 12 and 18 years of age took part in volunteer activities in 2005 but only 5% of those attributed it to required hours for school programs.  If it is easy for teens to volunteer, the program will become self-sustaining.  It may take a lot of staff coordination, but the payoff is worth the investment.
GenerationOn has made a list of tips and tools for organizations wanting to use young volunteers available on their site.  Organizations wanting to make themselves more family-friendly can post activities and projects on a couple different websites:

One Response

  1. […] parents are working to get their children more involved in volunteering, some are seeking ways to get them interested in giving financially as well. One such mother […]

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