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Community Matters - Attracting younger volunteers

 

I often hear voluntary groups say they can’t get young people to volunteer, or become involved in their organisation. They worry that the average age of their group’s members is getting older, and that their organisation may not survive into the future.

There are many advantages in having young people involved in organisations – they are often energetic and enthusiastic, and can bring new life and fresh ideas into a club or group. In some cases they can help with the more physical tasks that older members may no longer be able to do.

Young people usually want to have fun while they are helping out. This may not necessarily involve being with other young people, but certainly with others where they can have an enjoyable time. They may not want to commit to a specific role or take on a long-term commitment, but may be interested in one-off or short-term opportunities more so than older people.

Another important factor to consider with younger people is they may be looking for a chance to increase their skills and add to their curriculum vitae. Opportunities to assist them with their careers, or increase the likelihood of obtaining a job can be a great motivator. Jobs where they can test out their skills, try out different things, and learn in a supported way are more popular.

Clubs may not traditionally have assistant roles but these can be developed for young people to work alongside other more experienced members to learn the ropes. They carry less risk to the young person and of course to the organisation, and offer the opportunity for mentoring as they develop their skills and confidence.

Communication with young people may also need a different approach. Obviously social media is a major player in communicating to young people, and can be used to showcase your organisation, outlining its purpose, values and activities. Photos and short video clips help to draw attention to what you are doing.

Volunteering Northland provides a recruitment and referral service for volunteers, and matches them with potential organisations looking for volunteers. Perhaps surprisingly, they are contacted more often by volunteers in the 16–20 age bracket than those over 65 years old. This seems to be a trend, nationally and internationally, so is not unique to Northland. A third of the people they refer to organisations seeking volunteers are under 30 years old. Older people may of course already be volunteering, or know where to go for volunteer roles, but either way this is a good trend for the future of our volunteer sector and for citizenship in general.

n Libby Jones is involved in many community organisations in both paid and volunteer roles. She has experience in social services, health and education including governance, funding, research, clinical and management roles.

 
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