Young volunteers: the future of fundraising
Having youth on your side definitely has its advantages. That’s because with youth comes energy and vitality. Not to mention fresh ideas, different skill-sets, and above all, passion.
These are all invaluable qualities when it comes to fighting to increase your charity or not-for-profit’s public profile, and when raising valuable funds. And anything that lends a competitive edge in today’s challenging fundraising environment has got to be good news.
Young people can bring a lot to an organisation. A new perspective is never a bad thing, and young people deliver that in spades. They see the world differently and with that comes a unique vision of how things can be done and how goals can be achieved.
Young people are also connected – not only with each other but with a huge audience via their extensive use of social media. They can do things with a smartphone you maybe didn’t even realise are possible. And that means they can help get your message out in clever new ways, posting positive content on platforms you might never have heard of.
Digital savvy is written in teenagers’ DNA, and that can give you an important competitive edge. They know their way round a laptop like a pigeon knows the way home, and they can do amazingly creative things with software. So not only can they give you valuable help with your databases and processes, they can design publicity material, create digital content, make videos and do a whole lot else.
Even at a basic level young people can be invaluable. They can shake a collection bucket for hours without flagging, and engage with the public in a refreshingly open way. They can also help out in practical ways at events, using their strength and energy to shift stuff around, pouring endless cups of tea, and even providing the entertainment by playing music, painting kids’ faces and braiding hair.
And let’s not forget, these youngsters are potentially the frontline fundraisers and trustees of tomorrow. If they’re welcomed into volunteering at an early age, they’re much more likely to be inspired by it, and to stick with it through into adulthood – even if they sometimes dip in and out when other things like exams take priority.
That’s important, because charity and not-for-profit knowledge gleaned at a formative age can, over the years, turn into the kind of honed, mature expertise that drives the sector in the future.
Of course, young people benefit themselves from being involved. They can learn new skills. They can take on responsibility. They can meet new people from all generations and backgrounds, and get involved in partnerships with other organisations. They can even help influence which direction an organisation moves in. And, obviously, they get a valuable credit for their CV.
So why aren’t all charities and not-for-profits recruiting young volunteers? Especially the smaller ones, the ones that are often desperate for more hands to share the work?
Putting up barriers
Perceived barriers usually revolve around their young age. People think they might not fit in because of it. That they’ll need too much supervision. That too much already precious time will have to be devoted to training them up.
And while all of these are relevant worries, they’re nothing that can’t be overcome with a bit of planning and effort. Plus, why cut off your nose, so to speak, when the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks?
People also sometimes have misguided ideas about the number of hours youngsters can volunteer for. In reality, there are no restrictions for over 10s – although many organisations adopt employment law for children as a guide.
Even then, under 15s are permitted to volunteer for up to 35 hours per week in school holidays, (25 hours for 13 to 14-year-olds) and for 12 hours a week during term-time. Some councils also impose their own requirements, so you should check with them first.
Insurance, too, is seen as a hurdle to recruiting young volunteers. People assume that their public liability and employer’s liability insurance won’t cover under 16s, and maybe even under 18s. But the thing is, even if your policy is age specific, a simple call to your broker is all it takes to fix it. It won’t even cost much. And some policies have no age restrictions whatsoever.
So, it’s pretty clear that welcoming young volunteers into your charity or not-for-profit group can only be a win-win. A win for young people in that they’re claiming a stake in society and investing in a better future for themselves and others – as well as beefing up their CV. And a win for you in terms of the energy, vision, skills and fundraising potential you’ll be taking on board.
Lisa Carr, charity specialist at PolicyBee online insurance brokers.
PolicyBee is an IoF Corporate Supporter Member
Explore the role of volunteers within your charity and across your events programme at the IoF Community Fundraising conference on 1 June 2017