Purposeful Volunteering – Engaging College Students

“Purpose” is key to engaging students in volunteering and many are eager to donate their biggest asset- TIME. Research from May 3, 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that “77% of college students said they’re more likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause.” Purpose is empowering. Just as students are seeking to find purpose in their education and career-choice, they look to find purpose in their volunteering activities. We need to remember that college students are “people.” Individually, each is looking to belong to a social network, feel loved, and know that they are making an impact. Helping them find ways to do so is connecting them to realize the purpose of their giving and volunteering actions. As a Volunteer Manager you’ll have to do your homework.

volunteerSelling your project to College Administration and Faculty: Local colleges and universities may have a Volunteer Program already in place and you can contact the staff. If not, contacting the Career Placement Center and Student Center are great places to start. Or, you may have to contact Academic Division Heads to discuss the prospects. Our agency has had great results when we contact the Business, Finance and, Accounting Divisions for recruiting VITA Tax Volunteers. Nursing and PA students provided needed support in health related events such as a Military Standdown for Homeless Veterans. Volunteers from Technical Colleges provide needed skill-based service for repair and construction projects. A number of Instructors and Administrators often offer extra credit for volunteer service and encourage students to serve. You’ll be helping academia provide students with real-life experience and broaden their practice and proficiency in the field they are working to master.

Designing your project: A project for busy college students will have to be crafted to meet their tight schedule.

  • It should be at a convenient time and a location.
  • It should enable them to serve with their peers. Create a group-like experience.
  • A drop-in volunteer opportunity creates spontaneous volunteers.
  • Design transformational experiences that highlight how the work makes a real impact.
  • PROVIDE FOOD!

Marketing the event:

  • Start and end with Social Media: Twitter, Google+, Vimeo, Digg, Flickr, Pinterest, and don’t forget Facebook.
  • College Fairs with “old fashioned” printed fliers.
  • Participate as a work location in a university’s Day of Service event such as IPFW’s The Big Event.
  • Look for pre-formed groups such as athletic teams, student government, and clubs.
  • Make sure you demonstrate the need that this completed project will fulfill.

Selling your project to the students: Give them reasons to volunteer.

  • Tell your story and sell your cause as a “stress-reliever”. College is stressful. But if students volunteer for an organization that serves the less fortunate, they get a chance to see how others live compared to their own life. Nothing relieves stress better than gaining some perspective on how the world really works. Gratitude is an excellent study tool.
  • Be as flexible and transparent as possible.
  • Offer projects that can be done online.
  • Many students express frustration with long, inefficient and unnecessary training and orientation. Even better: put them online.
  • Let them know how volunteering is really worth their time during college years.

The mantra is that a few hours volunteering could change their life and help their future career

-learn to work as part of a team

-learn how to be a leader

-build their resume as they explore careers

-confirm their career choice

-expands their networking connections

-increase chance of scholarships and getting into grad school

We’ve found that a large number of Millennial, Generation X, Generation Y, and Baby Boomer volunteers started their service in college and it became a lifetime commitment. And remember the old adage, “People volunteer because they were asked.” You don’t want them to miss the opportunity to serve.

jean

 

*Post written by Jean Joley, Executive Director at Volunteer Center RSVP

Are You Ready for One-Day Group Volunteer Projects?

Our agency continues to receive requests for group volunteer projects. They can be youth groups, school groups, church groups, corporate groups, and all assortment of combinations in-between.

Here is what the volunteers want from their volunteer project:

  • They want their group volunteering activity to take from 2 to 4 hours.
  • They want to be all together as much as possible, to socialize throughout the experience – they don’t want to be isolated from each other individually.
  • They usually don’t want to have any obligation beyond that one-time volunteering experience.
  • They want the experience to feel like they have fun, they make a difference, and then they leave.

Group size: The larger the group – the harder it is to find opportunities. Unfortunately, volunteering opportunities for large groups are very hard to find. Finding a group volunteering opportunity for 6 people is much easier than finding a one-day opportunity for 150 people. And, it’s okay to say NO if the needs of the group does not match your agency, the time-line is too short, the liability is too great, or you do not have enough staff to support the project.

volunteer

Here are some suggestions for working with a group:

  • Designate a group leader
  • Walk through the project with the group leader at least a month to 2 weeks prior
  • Make a list of supplies needed for project (rakes, shovels, gloves, paint, aprons, etc.)
  • Agree (in writing) who will pay for any needed supply items
  • Have all volunteers pre-register (it’s OK to not accept walk-in’s). Consider creating a free online volunteer registration form in a site like Sign-Up Genius.
  • On the day of event have all volunteers sign a liability waiver
  • Give written job descriptions for each assignment
  • Have a short group presentation to explain what they are doing and the difference it will make
  • Have refreshment (even if it’s bottled water)
  • At the end of the project, include a short time for reflection with the group and talk about their volunteer experience
  • Have a short post-event meeting with the group leader
  • Thank everyone as they leave
  • Send a thank-you note to each volunteer and tell them what a difference that their service has made to your agency.

Think ahead: Your agency may have a number of un-met needs that would be perfect for a group:

  • Set up tables and chairs for an event
  • Clean up after an event
  • Cleaning the landscape in spring and fall
  • Sorting boxes of records and items in your storage area

Here are some classic group activity stories from our agency:

  • Last year we had a corporate group that requested a project for 70 people. The time line was 1 – 4 PM on Saturday, October 7th. (With two weeks’ notice) Outcome: we found 3 parks that needed clean up.
  • Another group was doing a Youth Church Conference and they wanted a 2 hour project for 300 youth ages 14-16. The time line was a Sunday from 1-3 PM. Outcome: We declined.
  • A group of (well-meaning) ladies wanted to rock new-born babies in a hospital nursery for two hours one Thursday a month. Outcome: Would not consider even asking a hospital!
  • One dear lady and her friends wanted to bake birthday cakes, and deliver them, to children of prisoners housed in the local jail. Outcome: The jail Chaplains nixed the project.
  • One talented gentleman wanted to build small houses (like on the TV shows) for homeless individuals. He wanted us to set up the classes and he would teach the volunteers. Outcome: We declined.
  • A group of Air Force recruits wanted a 3 hour project that would require strength and hard work. They had just enlisted and thought that this would be something that they could do for the community before starting their service the next morning. Outcome: They lifted heavy tree branches and spread playground mulch at a city park.

My guess is that you have some great stories to tell too! Volunteer groups can be a blessing but they require patience and planning.

 

jeanWritten by Jean Joley,
Executive Director of Volunteer Center
for PCNRC.

Philanthropy in Allen County: Lauren Brune

Philanthropy in Allen County is a short series of features designed to highlight why and how members of the Fort Wayne and surrounding community support nonprofits.  Over the course of the summer, we’ll be featuring responses from different nonprofit professionals, volunteers, employees, and board members to showcase Allen County nonprofits!

Lauren Brune

Lauren Brune
Lauren Brune

What nonprofit organizations are you associated with and in which capacities (employee, volunteer, board member, etc.)?

LEARN Resource Center, employee.

How did you first become involved with your current organization(s)? 

I was job hunting and saw an open position at LEARN Resource Center for a communications and special events coordinator. I applied for the position and have been with the organization since February 2016.

What is your favorite part of the organization(s) you work with? Why?

My favorite part of working for LEARN Resource Center is the interactions I get to have with the kids and people within the community. Working for a small nonprofit makes networking critical, and I love attending community functions and getting to know other doers in town. Also, a lot of my work happens behind the scenes, but when I do get to interact with the kids in our program it reminds me that what I do matters to each and every one of them. Continue reading