Make volunteer training transferable for young volunteers

For many volunteer roles, specific (and often times in-depth) training is required. Rather than making the training just another hoop young volunteers have to jump through to actually get volunteering, create a training program that is bigger than the volunteer opportunity. Sometimes, training isn’t even necessary, but general (and transferable) training could benefit both the volunteers and the program/project they are serving.

What do I mean by making transferable training that is bigger than the volunteer role itself? Here are some examples to illustrate:

  • If the role involves giving presentations, make the training about giving good presentations in general, and not just about how to give a specific presentation.
  • If the role involves social media, make the training about social media strategies in general, and not just about how to use social media to engage the public in a specific project.
  • If the role involves dealing with a vulnerable population, make the training aboutgeneral issues faced by the population, and not just about specific situations the volunteer may run into.

The training can still involve necessary specifics, but as an application of the more general training rather than the entirety of the training itself.

Training that is more general is more transferable, and thus more of a benefit to young volunteers as they explore career paths and develop new skills.

Blend activism with volunteerism to keep young people engaged

Many volunteer roles filled by young people put them on the front lines of an organization. In some cases this can help connect them to the organization’s mission, but in many cases, it many lead to feelings of total disconnection from the big picture. In other ways, Millennials can be made to feel like they are just cheap labour, to be called upon when their hands are needed – again, leading to feelings of disconnection to the big change the organization wished to make in the world.

To help young people contribute in multiple ways to your cause and keep them engaged beyond their hands, include opportunities for activism in your communications with them. Here are a few ideas for blending activism with their volunteer roles (either in addition to or in between volunteer roles):

  • Check to see if they are following your org on Facebook or Twitter. Share articles, memes or petitions of interest for them to pass on to their networks, especially those not produced by your organization (connecting them to the bigger cause).
  • Share news articles and suggest opportunities to send a ‘letter to the editor’.
  • Ask them to provide quotes for press releases.
  • Ask them to serve on advisory bodies or board committee that focus on public policy or strategic planning.

The first question to ask new Millennial volunteers

During the recruitment process, or shortly thereafter, be sure to ask the following question of new young volunteers:

What do you want to get out of this experience?

Some people may assume that a new line on the old resume is enough of a benefit for young volunteers. While this may be one benefit, Millennials are seeking much more. If you don’t know, you risk putting in the effort of offering rewards that have no value.

In my recent experience engaging volunteers, here are some common responses I’ve heard to this question:

I want to meaningfully contribute to a cause that’s important to me.

I want to connect with other people who are have experience in this area.

I want more experience with (insert skill/task).

I think I might be interested in finding a job in this area in the future.

These fit exactly with what the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating over the years has found – in general – for people aged 15-24, and 25-34. But for each and every individual, you won’t know until you ask.