Under 18 Volunteering
Young people (like anyone else) can be enthusiastic, bringing new ideas, energy and drive to your organisation. Yet for some organisations the prospect of involving young people under the age of 18 can seem quite daunting, despite the many benefits associated with engaging with Post-Millennials (Generation Z).
Below are some tip tips around engaging with young volunteers, helping to dispel any myths or preconceptions about young volunteers.
1.There are no legal restrictions preventing under 18’s from volunteering.
Whilst there are some legal restrictions to child employment (e.g. the duration and type of work under 18’s can perform), these do not apply to volunteers (supporting not for profit organisations). Rather, organisations are advised to ensure the role undertaken by a young volunteer is suitable for their skills and ability, ensuring they are not left alone. The organisation does have a duty of care for under 18’s and parental consent should be sought.
2. Check and review your organisations policies
The steps that facilitate the inclusion of young volunteers are mostly modest extensions of standard good practice. For example, as well as ensuring that your organisation’s insurance policy generally applies to volunteers, you will simply need to double-check that it covers the full age-range of the volunteers you involve. If not, ask how this cover can be extended. Check that confidentially, child protection, and volunteer policies include young volunteers.
3. Consider alternative ways of engaging young volunteers
Where restrictions remain (i.e. under-16’s) consider alternative ways of involving young volunteers such as ‘family volunteering’ (where by the responsibility of the under 16 would be with the parent and not the volunteer involving organisation) or a third party (i.e. National Citizen Service, Duke of Edinburgh).
4. Understand why young people volunteer
In order to improve the chances of success, it’s important to be clear and understand the motivations behind why a young person might wish to volunteer. What interests them? What skills might they bring? How and where would they seek opportunities?
Young people are actively encouraged (voluntold) to volunteer and embraced in the right way, young people can bring a whole new dimension to many volunteering involving organisations. The #iwill campaign is one example of positive promotion of young volunteers, embracing youth social action and social media.
5. Be aware of perceptions and acceptance
Most young people will have a perception of what volunteering is, good or bad. Be aware that ‘word of mouth’ is the most effective way of promoting your organisation and ensure that the message put out is a positive one. Engage where possible with local events focused towards young people (i.e. Career Fairs / Open Days) to help raise awareness of your organisation and profile
6. Offer flexibility (time-commitment)
Time – or rather lack of it is often the biggest barrier to most people volunteering and young people are no exception. Consider the demands on young people’s time, having to balance school / studies, social life and potentially part-time work.
There may be periods of the year (i.e. school holidays) when a young person is more able to commit, rather than regular volunteering or times in their young lives where they need to take a step back (i.e. exams). Indeed this is true of a lot of the population with a continued rise in the popularity of episodic volunteering.
Don’t dismiss the opportunity to utilise the skills of young people, just because they can’t commit on a regular / long term basis. Treat them well and you may well have a volunteer for life.
7. Information and Promotion – is the role clear and attractive?
The opportunity needs to be appealing and fun. Otherwise why would a young person want to give up their spare time? Make sure your publicity says what you want from a volunteer and why you want them. Make it very clear how they go about getting more information or becoming involved.
8. Ensure young people understand the role
A common myth is that all young people are unreliable and immature. Young people are people and like everyone else and no two are alike. If at interview you are unsure whether they understand the role, why not invite them to training and give them an opportunity to find out more and demonstrate what they understand.
9. Highlight the benefits to getting involved
It is not always obvious to young people as to the benefits that volunteering can bring. Try to draw out the range of benefits that getting involved can bring to them. It would also be useful in helping to share / sell the opportunity to parents.
10. Recognise your volunteers
Try to ensure that your volunteers feel valued. Acknowledge the time they have committed to your organisation. Rewarding volunteers doesn’t necessarily need to cost you money, it could be nominating someone for their efforts in a local / national award. See recognising and rewarding volunteers for more top tips.