Volunteer Centers of Washington

Organizations and Schools

Tips for Engaging Youths as Volunteers

How can you capture the energy of youth, while giving a young person a leg up on their future? Volunteer Centers of Washington can help you, with formal youth programs, connections to non-profits that engage youth volunteers, templates, ideas, and advice. Speaking of advice...

  • Make it fun!  Make a game out of tedious tasks, with even a simple prize (most kid’s books collected?  First to finish addressing 100 envelopes?)  Or, let them help design a contest.
  • Be clear with your instructions.  Young people just haven’t had as much experience as adults, and what seems obvious to you might not be.  Leave written instructions and examples.  Let them try a dry run.
  • Find tasks that can be done in a day.  Young people’s schedules are erratic, with changing sports games, school projects, and family responsibilities.
  • Help with transportation.  Maybe some of your adult volunteers can sign up to help get non-drivers where you need them.  Have carpool sign-ups.  Or partner with an agency that has a van.
  • Give them responsibility.  If you need folders collated, let them decide what system works best.  Let youth work together to design projects.  Even put a youth representative on your board!

To download more advice on working with young volunteers:

For a presentation on managing youth volunteers:

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Our Expertise in Youth Programs

The Volunteer Centers of Washington have a long history of youth engagement.  VCW member United Way of Pierce County began the first “Youth United” in the nation in 2002, and has served as a national model since.  Special youth volunteer programs are now in place in Snohomish, Walla Walla, Clallam, Chelan, Pierce, Douglas, Clark, Skagit, Whatcom and Kitsap Counties.  For the 2013/2014 school year, the VCW volunteer centers enrolled over 1,500 high school students from 77 schools, who volunteered over 150,000 hours.

These programs usually include a Varsity Letter program, for high school students who volunteer over 145 hours in a year--Last year, more than 1000 varsity letters in volunteering were awarded statewide.
Some volunteer centers convene Teen Leadership Councils, in which the teens design projects and help guide program design.  A few also award certificates for students in sixth through eighth grades. All provide a range of assistance with advice, templates, hour tracking, and project ideas.

Snohomish County completes a pre-and post survey of the members of the Teen Leadership Council, in order to measure the impact of their year’s involvement.  The latest data showed a:

  • 21% increase in hours per month volunteered
  • 33% increase in feeling connected to the community
  • 49% increase in confidence  in public speaking

For more information on how to join or start a youth program, contact your nearest volunteer center!

Additional Resources

DO Something

DO Something

Visit DOsomething.org for more helpful information.

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Generation On

Generation On

Visit GenerationOn.org for more helpful information.

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