Young volunteers can transform our organisations, and our community
Welcome to my first blog!
I’ll be using the blog partially to talk about current volunteering issues, good practice, and policy developments, but also to raise discussion points. Volunteering can be a topic that gets ignored even within the charity sector, but it deserves to be thought about, debated and even disagreed over.
To kick off, I wanted to talk about youth volunteering. Young people can be given a poor image. You know the clichés – they’re either hanging around in groups taking ‘legal highs’ and vandalising phone boxes, or glued to sofas playing video games. However the truth is somewhat different. According to the 2015 Youth Social Action Survey 40% of 10-15 year olds were involved in ‘meaningful social action’, which means that they participated in fundraising, campaigning or volunteering as more than a brief one-off activity.
What this means is that there is a large resource out there in Bexley that our voluntary sector is missing out on. These are people who could be the next generation of volunteers, voluntary sector workers and community activists. Equally we have a lot to offer our young people. Don't just take my word for it:
I have many members of our current team who started here as a 15 year old volunteer and although they went on to leave school and start a job or further education, they are still with us volunteering in their spare time, in some cases are now in their early twenties and are paid members of staff. It is a great way for an organisation such as ours to select the best volunteers for paid work positions, rather than advertising and interviewing new candidates. In particular we still have two youth club “Team Leaders” working for us each week who began here volunteering at 15, they are now nearly 40!
Ben Watt, Duty Manager, Danson Youth Centre
For some young people, they have struggled through education, lack qualifications and experience and being able to access a voluntary opportunity can really turn their life around. Volunteering not only gives them valuable experience, it builds their confidence and enhances their cv and makes them more desirable to future employers. For those who have struggled in education, it gives them the opportunity to start again and evidence their employability skills.
Dee Zammit, Careers Adviser, Prospects Services | Bexley Youth Advice
To encourage organisations to engage younger volunteers we’ve launched the Youth Volunteering Pledge, asking local groups to sign up to say they will consider young people as volunteers. Please think about signing up. The Volunteer Centre can provide guidance on involving young people, so please do get in touch for further information. Here are some top tips, and there’s much more information, from a fantastic booklet to example policies and procedures on the Greater London Volunteering website:
- Let young people know you will accept them! Many organisations that would be happy to consider younger volunteers don’t actually say so. Sending out a positive message of inclusion will encourage people
- Are your current roles appropriate for younger people? Or to put it another way, does the volunteer need a certain level of maturity, life experience, self-confidence or experience? It’s ok to say no to younger volunteers, but always question why you are imposing age limits. They’re often in place simply because people assume they should only accept older volunteers.
- Could you change things to better involve young people? For example, if you believe your current roles are genuinely unsuitable for a younger age group you might be able to amend the activity, so that volunteers who previously worked alone are now always accompanied.
- Consider new volunteering roles. Think about what you have to offer younger people, and what you can gain from them – this could mean roles that you hadn’t thought of before.
- Think about your messages and recruitment material. Are they likely to be appealing to younger people?
- Check your insurance – your employer’s liability insurance might have a lower age limit. It shouldn’t be a problem to get this changed.
- Think about safety. Revisit your risk assessment from the point of view of both health and safety and safeguarding. You might need to change the role or the activity to be more suitable for a younger person.