How to Engage Youth

Where to start

Developing youth volunteer engagement is critical for transforming volunteering from a graduation requirement into an exciting way for youth to get involved in their community. Listed below are ideas and resources to help your organization better engage with youth volunteers.

How to Engage Youth Volunteers

Conduct an internal organizational assessment on youth volunteer engagement

Identify your current capacity for increasing youth volunteer engagement. Levels of implementation will differ depending on the organization. For example, you can:

  • Adjust current volunteer postings and roles to be more accessible to youth
  • Create new roles for youth to address existing resource or capacity gaps in your organization

Explore engagement approaches and models used by other not-for-profits

Municipal Youth Engagement Best Practices by Apathy is Boring provides a comprehensive guide to help organizations understand the social values of youth, how they currently engage in civic life through social media and best practices for mobilizing youth involvement.

Design your volunteer recruitment and screening for youth volunteers

Volunteer postings should provide an overview of your organizational focus, vision and a summary of the position. Emphasize how youth would be making a difference and what they would gain from volunteering with you.

Create an internal strategy for youth volunteer training and retention

Identify resources and supports to best prepare youth for their roles. Provide feedback and opportunities for further skills and leadership development.

Tips for Youth-friendly Volunteering

A strong online presence is key to attracting youth volunteers

Post to social media platforms that youth frequent to communicate the vision and mandate of your organization.

  • Use bright visual elements and a volunteer call-to-action that speaks to youth interests. Many youth today look to volunteering as a bridge to employment, skills development, and networking.
  • Tag Volunteer Ottawa in your social media posts so we can share opportunities with our audience.

Develop community

Develop open, friendly communication between staff and youth volunteers. Allowing youth to work in pairs or groups can make it a more social, lively environment for everyone.

  • Online forums, chat groups and communication platforms can be used to keep youth volunteers in the loop and develop rapport between themselves and your organization.

Make it youth-led

Not-for-profits should work to include youth in organizational affairs and their volunteering roles. Creating youth-specific positions or councils are good strategies to create responsive and dynamic youth volunteering networks.

  • Make it social, make it fun! – Have volunteering socials such as boardgame or trivia nights, volunteer recognition events and other opportunities to keep youth connected with their work and each other.
  • Training and mentorship – Youth want guidance to feel confident in the work they are doing. Training should be straightforward and delivered at a pace that matches the volunteer’s needs. Older youth mentors can also assist with newer volunteers.
  • Meaning and impact – Youth want to see their work having a meaningful and positive impact. Show youth how they are helping your organization and contributing to your cause.
  • Provide support – Low-income and rural students may not have reliable access to transportation. Subsidizing transportation costs and/or developing virtual roles can make your volunteering more accessible.

For more information on youth volunteer engagement, check out our resources section.