VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


V.T. readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
~ November 2001 Questions ~
  • Episodic Young Volunteers
  • Young Volunteer Opportunities
  • Supervising and Motivating Young Volunteers

Dear Connie:

I was wondering if you can offer me some feedback on an idea I had in mind. I'm thinking of implementing a program in my school where a group of us would go to different volunteer places each week. I don't know how this would work yet because I'm still pondering the idea. I don't know if volunteering for a different place each week would show lack of commitment to a particular organization. I just want to expose other people in my school to the various volunteer opportunities there are out there. Maybe when they find one that they especially enjoy and want to lend a helping hand, they will continue to help that center. What do you think I should do and consider at this point? Thank you for your time! I greatly appreciate it!



Dear E.C.:

Just do it! It's a great idea! Don't worry about the perceived lack of commitment, since your goal is to introduce volunteering to your peers. I suggest you start by contacting some nonprofit organizations in your community to find out what "episodic" (one-time or short-term) volunteer opportunities are available. If you have a volunteer center in your community, visit with someone there to find out what's available too. Then share this information and become a matchmaker. Good luck!

Dear Connie:

I am a dedicated volunteer, and I volunteer for various organizations. However, I am not able to find much information about volunteer opportunities for youth. One of my friends has a daughter who is 13 years old and would like to volunteer too. Do you know of any volunteer activities that would suit her age? I have searched the web and just can't find exactly what I am looking for. Any assistance you can give me on this issue would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.




Dear Catherine:

Since I don't know exactly what you're looking for in the way of volunteer opportunities for a 13-year old girl, I can only advise you generally. I would contact local organizations such as churches, YWCA, hospitals and the like where you generally will find volunteer opportunities for young people. Another source is the newspaper. Most dailies now have a column on volunteer opportunities that appear every one or two weeks. What about the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club or 4-H or Girl Scouts? Joining an organization and participating in its community service projects is a great activity for young people. Finally, I suggest you contact your local volunteer center and find out what volunteer opportunities they have that are appropriate for young people. If you don't know where your volunteer center is, visit the Points of Light Foundation website to find it. http://www.pointsoflight.org.

Dear Connie:

I am the coordinator of youth volunteers at a natural science museum. While we do have a dedicated number of youth volunteers (who begin at age 13), I am having some problem with them becoming overly familiar with the Museum and staff. They are, in effect, not completing their assigned jobs and doing as they please. When I am on weekend duty, the volunteers are on task. When I am not on duty with them, they seem to take advantage. Any ideas on how to correct this? I have talked with them one-on-one about the problem, and these few have sworn to improve. Reports from other Museum staff members indicate that they have not changed their patterns. Should I fire them?



Dear Betsy:

As you know firsthand, working with young volunteers is a unique challenge and a special reward. They often have short attention spans and are experiencing a surge in physical and emotional growth. Based on my personal experience, you ensure success for everyone when you help young volunteers to understand the purpose of the work they're doing and, most importantly, when you treat them like young adults. Several things occur to me about the situation you described:

  1. Do you have written task descriptions for these volunteers? If so, are the descriptions current and are you sure everyone has read his/hers? Often it is easier to change behavior by focusing your discussions on accomplishing the tasks.
  2. Do you have formal performance evaluations of these volunteers? They need to have the opportunity every six months to tell you what's working for them and what isn't. A "two-way" process gives you the chance to counsel them for improvement and gives them the chance to take more ownership in their performance.
  3. Do the other staff members understand their supervisory role when you are not around? It may be that staff members are not adequately supervising the volunteers or don't know that they are supposed to supervise them when you're not there.
  4. Reward "good behavior" by recognizing publicly those volunteers whom accomplishes their tasks on time and in good order. You might consider putting names on the "Well Done!" section of the bulletin board or establishing a point system where young volunteers collect points toward "prizes" from your museum store or sending humorous notes or postcards to say thank you and "good job." In other words, catch them doing it right and reward that behavior.

Most of all, Betsy, be patient and help your colleagues to do the same. The energy, spirit, and fun you have in working with younger volunteer's offsets the challenges!

Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Connie Pirtle

Strategic Nonprofit Resources

2939 Van Ness NW Street, Suite 1248

Washington, DC 20008

VOICE: 202-966-0859

FAX: 202-966-3301
Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.

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