Just like adults, different teens volunteer for different reasons. Some care passionately about a cause; others may be looking to expand their social circles. Still others are just looking to fulfill community service hours required for high school graduation. Whatever their reasons for walking in your door, if you expose them to the best your organization has to offer, you can create a supporter for life.
In order to build this relationship, teen volunteer retention is key. There is a difference between allowing, accepting and welcoming teens. Organizations that allow teens simply adopt a minimum age to volunteer that includes teens. Non-profits that accept teens usually integrate them into a volunteer force without regard to the skills and interests that are common to that age group.
Organizations that welcome teens need not have a separate teen program. They simply need to do what they can to make teen volunteers feel welcome because of, not in spite of, who they are. For most organizations with a strong volunteer recruitment and recognition program, a little tweaking might make you the most teen friendly organization in town.
Here are a few guidelines to help you plan your teen volunteer inclusion efforts:
- Separate older teens from younger teens/kids unless they are mentors/helpers or if all ages (kids and adults) are working together on a project.
- Establish a volunteer structure that gives teens the option of autonomy from their parents whenever possible. One of the advantages to teens of volunteering is learning independence.
- Welcome ideas and input from teens especially when it comes to creating programs that involve teens as volunteers or clients. Although teens are young, they may have valuable insights to offer.
- Recognize that teens may have special skills and capabilities. They usually don’t have to think twice to program a remote, set up a Facebook page or create a slide show. Organizations can take advantage of the fact that teens are a tech-friendly generation.
- State your volunteer guidelines clearly on your web-site. Youth looking for volunteer involvement want to know at what age they can volunteer for an organization and whether they need to be with their parents while they are volunteering.
Thank you for your efforts to help build a strong generation of new leaders.