Approaches for enlisting student volunteers

Students are a good source for nonprofit volunteers
Date Published
04/20/2015

As summer break approaches, many college and high school students are looking for productive ways to spend their free time. Nonprofit fundraising can provide students a way to give back to their community or promote a national cause. Here are some steps an organization can take to attract students looking for volunteering options:

Recognize the interest
A lot of students want to volunteer. Do Something, America’s largest youth volunteer organization, conducted a national survey that found over half of U.S. teens volunteer in some way, shape or form. College students are one of the largest groups of volunteers in the country, according to statistics provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In the U.K., the National Union of Students found that in 2014, among higher education students who volunteered, 60 percent did so at least once a week. These numbers reveal a segment of the population that is willing and eager to meet a nonprofit’s needs.

Work with their schedule
The NUS survey found the primary reason students don’t volunteer is a perceived lack of time. Often, nonprofit organizations will be vague with time commitment details during recruitment efforts. Approaching a candidate with a well-drawn-out schedule can ease their fears. An organization should have different degrees of time commitment available. A nonprofit can create and manage these various schedules using volunteer management software.

Be social
Do Something’s survey found teens who regularly participated in social events, such as going to the movies with friends or hanging out at the mall, were over 20 percent more likely to volunteer. A primary reason many young people get involved with programs is the chance to interact and meet new people. Promoting an organization’s social benefits will make it more appealing to student-age candidates.

An organization should offer the chance to meet different walks of life. Students don’t just volunteer to socialize with their peers. One of the most enriching parts of volunteering for college students is meeting people in their community who they never would have encountered otherwise.

Use special events
There are holidays and celebrations during students’ summer breaks that could prove a beneficial opportunity to a volunteer based-organization. A nonprofit can use a national holiday to host a one-time volunteer project, so tentative applicants can try out a position without fear of over-committing.

Mid-April is when the U.S. recognizes National Volunteer Week. In the past, this week has been used to bolster organizations’ ranks with curious first-timers. If a nonprofit has environmental goals or practices, it can use Earth Day activities to embrace the local educational community. Regional summer events and festivals can be perfect places to introduce the local community to your organization.

Advertise to them
To take part in a social cause, a student must be aware of it. The usual advertising techniques of flyers, recruiters and event promotion can be effective on a university or high school campus, but an organization should be sure to embrace technological calls to action. Do Something’s survey found teens who own phones and text regularly are more likely to volunteer than those who don’t. Promoting nonprofit opportunities on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are a good way to reach audiences who are constantly on their phones. City government and school websites are usually willing to post volunteer positions, provided they are a productive use of local students’ time.

Academic credit
A nonprofit can team up with local educational institutions to provide service-learning opportunities. Service learning is applying classroom instruction to real life projects and receiving school credit for it. As stated above, most students are interested in volunteering but they may have some reservations. If their school offers academic credit in exchange for fundraising or service participation it could encourage nonprofit involvement. Academic benefits can be the final push an undecided participant might need to fully commit to an organization. A nonprofit should find what values and skills a high school or university is trying to provide and communicate if their position meets its standards.

Promote job skills
A CNCS 2013 survey described volunteering as the “Pathway to employment.” The survey found people who volunteered were 27 percent more likely to find a job. Volunteering provides students the chance to work in the field of their choosing. When a nonprofit is promoting its volunteer positions, it should highlight the tasks volunteers will be performing and the skills a student can cultivate from participating in the nonprofit’s program. An organization should reach out to former volunteers who have found employment and use them as success stories to share with future applicants.

Appeal to international students
International students who have traveled to another country for higher education are often looking to make the best use of their time. Their student visas, though, may reduce their employment opportunities. This may limit them to jobs that do not feel rewarding and will not help their career. Volunteering positions are often less restricted by visas and can provide experiences that will make their time abroad more worthwhile. 

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