Resource Management - How to structure (virtual) volunteer programs for youth

The increasing need for virtual fundraising and volunteering opportunities in the post-COVID-19 era

As we progress further into the digital world, fundraising and volunteering opportunities have shifted towards the virtual environment as well. It is important for NPOs to offer virtual volunteering opportunities for students and young adults in the post-COVID-19 era. However, many NPOs struggle with virtually engaging volunteers in a meaningful way. By directing your attention towards the youths looking to gather volunteering experiences, both the non-profit and the youth group can benefit. Many young volunteers are excited to volunteer remotely, but access to virtual opportunities that align with their interests is a challenge.

In order to successfully implement a virtual volunteer program, non-profit leaders will need to consider several factors:

Intended programming impact

The volunteer opportunities, promotional material, and recognition tactics should impact the youth in such a way that they will want to help fulfill the non-profit’s mission. Youth groups should be inspired by the program details to jump in and help. Specifically, focusing on how volunteers are contributing to and making an impact on the organization’s mission.

Youth volunteer barriers

These barriers include things such as access to the internet and other digital tools, stress from school, costs attached to the opportunities, and unclear application processes. Identifying and working around them is the best way to keep a volunteer with your organization in the long run. Some barriers include conflicting school-related deadlines, age limits on volunteer roles, ambiguity in volunteer applications, and costs attached to volunteer opportunities. In a virtual setting, these barriers may be mitigated through organizing volunteer activities around high-stress times for students, ensuring all age limits are necessary for roles, simplifying the application process, and also removing any unnecessary costs.

Volunteer recruitment

It is important to engage youth in the areas where they are the most comfortable. Remember that volunteering is supposed to be a fun and engaging experience for youth. The best place to find engaged volunteers is in schools. Promoting your volunteer opportunity through school administrations or student networks is a great way to reach out. Training sessions for youth volunteers should be engaging and include skills development. Interactive activities to facilitate learning is the best way to keep them interested. Digital volunteer communities can provide effective ways to share information and develop strong volunteer-volunteer and volunteer-organization bonds. When you can, try to rely on volunteers to guide how these communities are formed.

Virtual Volunteering

Developing engaging online training is required. Lengthy recorded videos are often boring to watch and will quickly lose the interest of your volunteers. Rather, personalized training and mentorship will create a better sense of community and engagement with volunteers. Strong systems for tracking progress and hours, getting feedback, and doing follow-ups are also needed to keep the engagement up. Regularly engaging with volunteers is important to ensure that volunteers do not feel alone in their work and are not disconnected from the organization. Non-profits must identify and create tasks that can be easily completed by youth volunteers in a short period of time. Being flexible on tasks and the length of a volunteer opportunity will attract more people to join.

For further discussion on optimizing your non-profit organization’s volunteer programs, stay tuned for our upcoming series on Performance Management Tips for NPOs! 

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