How to Engage Young Adult Volunteers 

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Attracting and engaging young adult volunteers is crucial for the longevity and growth of any association. As the landscape of volunteering continues to evolve, it becomes essential to adopt strategies that resonate with the younger generation. Lucky for you, more and more young people are getting excited about volunteering. 

In this blog, we will help you attract and engage young individuals to volunteer at your organization. We believe that these strategies can help harness the power of youth engagement and maximize the impact of your organization’s mission. 

Implement a Young Adult Volunteers Recognition Program 

Recognizing the incredible work of volunteers in your organization is essential. One way to highlight their impact is by sharing their unique volunteer experiences on your social media channels and newsletter. Whether it’s a text-based post with an image or video, sharing their stories can demonstrate how volunteering at your organization has impacted their personal and professional lives, inspiring others to get involved. For inspiration here are two examples of volunteer appreciation posts from our clients, Orthotics Prosthetics Canada and Sponsorship Marketing Council Canada:  

Your organization can also host dedicated events or ceremonies to recognize and celebrate the contributions of young adult volunteers. This can include awards, certificates, or even small tokens of appreciation. By publicly acknowledging their efforts, you can encourage a sense of belonging and inspire others to engage in volunteer work.  

Provide Opportunities for Career Development   

Another way to attract young adult volunteers to your organization is by offering career development opportunities to gain experience. A survey conducted by the University of Minnesota revealed that 75% of young volunteers are motivated by self-oriented perceived benefits such as building their resume or college application. 

Understanding the motivations of young adult volunteers is key in providing them with meaningful experiences. By aligning their volunteer work with their career aspirations, your organization can tap into their enthusiasm and help them grow professionally. 

Here are two effective strategies to accomplish this: 

  • Have committee positions available: Invite young volunteers to join a committee that supports your organization’s operations. For example, a finance volunteer could join a fundraising committee to broaden their skillset. This not only offers them an opportunity to gain insights into different areas of your organization but also allows them to collaborate with experienced professionals. 
  • Assign skills-based projects: Encourage young adult volunteers to work on projects that match their interests and skills. Identify areas where your organization may need assistance, such as website development, design, social media, data analysis, or event planning. By assigning projects that align with their expertise, you empower young volunteers to apply their knowledge and contribute in a meaningful way. This allows them to both make a tangible impact on your organization’s goals while also honing their professional abilities. 

Share Impact Stories 

Sharing impact stories is also a powerful strategy for engaging young adult volunteers. Volunteer impact stories are powerful narratives that highlight the positive and transformative effects of volunteering on both volunteers and the communities they serve. These stories provide real-life examples of how volunteerism can make a significant difference in people’s lives and contribute to social change and industry advancement. By continuously showcasing and celebrating the positive outcomes and successes that they have achieved through their contributions, you create a sense of pride, fulfillment, and motivation among young volunteers. 

Here are some points to consider when writing or capturing a volunteer experience:   

  • Clearly define the volunteer’s role: Explain the specific role and responsibilities of the volunteer. Provide details about the tasks they performed, the skills they utilized, and any training or support they received. 
  • Highlight the impact: Focus on the positive outcomes and results achieved through the volunteer’s efforts. Share specific stories, anecdotes, or metrics to illustrate how their contributions made a difference. Quantify the impact when possible, such as the number of people served, funds raised, or lives changed. 
  • Personalize the experience: Consider adding a personal touch, depth, and authenticity to volunteer stories. Include quotes or testimonials from the volunteers themselves, as well as from beneficiaries, staff, or other volunteers. These personal accounts provide authenticity and emotional resonance, enhancing the overall impact story. 
  • Include visuals: Incorporate visuals such as photographs, videos, or infographics to bring the impact story to life. Visuals can evoke emotions, capture attention, and make the story more memorable and engaging. 
  • But most importantly, ask for permission: Always obtain permission and respect the privacy of individuals involved in the impact story. Ensure you adhere to any legal or ethical guidelines regarding the use of personal information. 
Our client, Fertility Matters Canada, collected a series of videos from their volunteers to communicate the impact of their volunteer work. Above is a great example!

Provide a Mentorship Program  

Providing mentorship is an effective way to attract and retain young adult volunteers and help them thrive in their roles. Here are some ways to implement mentorship programs within your organization:  

  • Match mentors and mentees: Pair experienced volunteers or staff members with young volunteers who can benefit from their guidance and support. Consider the interests and goals of both parties to ensure a successful mentorship match. This can be done through a formal application and matching process to ensure compatibility.  
  • Establish clear expectations: Clearly define mentors’ and mentees’ expectations, goals, and responsibilities. This can include regular check-ins, goal-setting sessions, and feedback mechanisms. By setting clear expectations, volunteers are likelier to have a productive and meaningful mentorship experience. 
  • Provide training for mentors: Offer mentors training and resources to equip them with the necessary skills to support and guide young adult volunteers effectively. This can include communication techniques, active listening skills, and strategies for providing constructive feedback. The better-prepared mentors are the more impactful their mentorship will be. 
  • Facilitate regular check-ins: Encourage mentors and mentees to have regular check-in meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and growth opportunities. These meetings can be in-person, virtual, or a combination, depending on the preferences and availability of both parties. Regular communication ensures that the mentorship relationship remains solid and supportive. 

Mentorship programs provide young volunteers with personalized guidance, support, and a sense of belonging within your organization. By implementing these strategies, you can create a nurturing environment that fosters personal and professional growth, leading to a more rewarding volunteering experience for everyone involved.  

Facilitate Networking Opportunities 

Organizations can also engage with young adult volunteers and help young professionals grow professionally by: 

  • Offering networking opportunities: enable young volunteers to expand their professional network by hosting networking events and facilitating introductions to professionals in their field. 
  • Making conferences more accessible: offer free or discounted registration fees. Access to these events will expose young adult volunteers to current trends and knowledge sharing.  
  • Organizing workshops and seminars: conduct workshops and seminars specifically designed for young professionals. These events can cover various topics, such as leadership development and career advancement strategies. 

In addition to in-person networking events, utilize technology to facilitate virtual networking opportunities. Create online forums or discussion groups where young adult volunteers can engage with association members and industry professionals. Utilize social media platforms to connect, share insights, and establish meaningful connections. 

Cultivate a Flexible Environment  

Volunteers can feel discouraged because volunteering opportunities can demand considerable time conflicting with their professional or academic commitments. A study by TalentLMS found that 81% of Gen Z employees value flexibility in their work schedules. Moreover, most prefer a hybrid work model that allows them to work remotely and in the office.  

A flexible volunteer environment will allow them to balance their responsibilities effectively. Offer options to volunteer on weekends, evenings, virtual, and hybrid; it will enable them to contribute without overwhelming their busy lives.  

Ultimately, your organization should clearly communicate the time commitment required for each volunteer opportunity upfront. This allows young adult volunteers to assess if they can realistically accommodate the responsibilities alongside their other commitments. 

Build a Volunteer Community on Social Media 

Young people are digital natives and are highly active on social networking platforms. Leverage this channel as an opportunity to connect and engage with them. When creating a thriving volunteer community on social media, it is crucial to consider the following tactics:  

  • Create a dedicated volunteer group: a community on platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn will allow like-minded individuals passionate about volunteerism to connect with you, share ideas, and collaborate with your organization. You can share exclusive volunteer opportunities, organize virtual or in-person events, and facilitate discussions around relevant topics.  
  • Promote volunteer content: keep your organization’s social media platforms up to date by sharing high-quality content regularly. Use hashtags related to volunteering to increase the chances of being discovered by interested individuals. Share pictures, videos from volunteer events, and informative and inspiring articles. Always include a clear call to action, directing those interested to your website or another online platform where they can sign up to volunteer.  

Provide Training and Skill Development   

Offering training and skill development opportunities for young adult volunteers is essential to attract and engage with them effectively. Training will empower them to excel in their volunteer roles and ensure a rewarding experience while fostering long-term commitment and engagement. 

Here are some great strategies to help you get started:  

  • Identify relevant skills: Determine the specific skills essential for success in volunteer roles. These could include communication, leadership, project management, or technical skills related to tasks the volunteer position requires. 
  • Establish a training curriculum: Break the training into comprehensive modules, allowing volunteers to focus on specific areas of interest or where they need additional support, such as effective communication, problem-solving, teamwork, cultural competence, event planning, fundraising, and more. Also, provide access to workshops, webinars, or online courses relevant to their goals.  
  • Utilize subject matter experts: invite experts, professionals, or experienced volunteers to lead training sessions or contribute to online courses. This adds credibility and practicality to your organization’s training programs, as volunteers can learn from individuals with firsthand experience in the field.  
  • Encourage continuous learning: Provide ongoing support and resources to help young adult volunteers continue their learning journey. For example, provide access to relevant articles, books, podcasts, or online platforms where volunteers can access additional training materials or participate in discussions.  

Provide Opportunities for Leadership   

Young people are looking for ways to make a difference and impact the world around them. A study by TalentLMS found that the most in-demand skill for Gen Zers is leadership, providing opportunities for young people to learn about leadership and take ownership in roles within your organization can play a crucial role when engaging with the next generation. Two ways to involve volunteers in leadership include ownership of projects and participating in decision-making processes, such as serving on committees.  

By allowing them to take on leadership roles or opportunities, associations can help young adult volunteers develop valuable skills that will benefit their careers, build confidence, and allow them to feel more connected to their cause.  

For more tips on engaging with young volunteers, check out the United for Literacy blog. Their article Youth Volunteering: Let’s Make Space for Our Young People Again provides a great example of how removing barriers enhances volunteering engagement and opportunities for young adults.

To Conclude… 

Engaging a dynamic and passionate community of young adult volunteers requires a strategic and adaptable approach that considers their unique needs and aspirations. Recognizing and appreciating their contributions, aligning with their motivations, and empowering their career development are crucial strategies for building strong connections. Investing in comprehensive training and leadership programs for these volunteers can enhance their professional growth, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for both the volunteers and the organization, leading to long-lasting engagement. 

Struggling to communicate the benefits of volunteer? Look no further! We also created this blog to help you highlight the benefits of volunteering with your organization to young adult volunteers. 

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