Student volunteers are a huge benefit for your organisation. Learn how to appeal to them in this article.
Volunteer centres and nonprofits are continuously looking for ways to encourage people into participating in volunteering activities. We already know that there are some huge benefits to the inclusion of student volunteers but we often don’t know how to recruit them into our organisation. How do we engage young people? What can we do to make our volunteering activities more appealing? What kinds of opportunities are young people looking for? No worries, we’re here to help!
We know that attracting young people to volunteering is a common issue and recent research highlights one important reason why this might be. A paper published in April 2022 suggests that one of the primary reasons why it is difficult to encourage volunteering amongst students, aside from the lack of pay, is the poor clarity in volunteer position advertisements (Evans and Yusof, 2022). Evidence suggests that volunteer and charitable organisations need to ‘target students more aggressively’ with job posts which explicitly state the employability skills that a student will gain.
This is why, in this article, we will explore three ideas to tailor to the specific needs of young volunteers, some extra tips and we include a sample volunteer advertisements that should resonate with them.
The first crucial step in this journey is to appreciate the distinctive employability and transferable skills that students seek when exploring work experiences. Research conducted in 2022, as documented in '‘Volunteering: A viable alternative work experience for university students' by Evans and Yusof, has identified the top 12 employability skills that graduate employers value the most. These encompass leadership, communication, problem-solving, organizational prowess, and the confidence to excel in various professional settings.
Once you've established a profound understanding of these employability skills, the next move is to align your charitable organisation's volunteer opportunities with these skills. By creating a synergy between the offered positions and the skills sought by students, your opportunities become inherently more appealing to younger volunteers.
Lastly, it's time to shape or reshape your volunteer opportunity advertisements to align with the needs and aspirations of students. Students looking for work experience will be considering the long-term benefits of a role, especially if it is an unpaid one. To address this, your job descriptions must be crystal clear about the skills students will acquire or will be able to practice during their volunteer tenure and how these competencies are transferred to their future careers.
The key takeaway here is the importance of articulating not just what the volunteer will do but also what they will learn and gain from the experience. When advertising these positions, it is recommended to use clear and compelling language that directly connects the volunteer's contributions to these employability skills.
To conclude, effective position advertisements are a bridge that connects the passion and potential of young student volunteers with the needs of charitable organisations. By explicitly demonstrating how their efforts contribute to skill development and long-term employability, you can captivate this new group, making them valuable assets in the world of volunteering.
You’ve already made these changes and are ahead of the game? We have four extra useful tips which you might not have considered. These tips are particularly useful in improving the effectiveness in reaching and retaining student volunteers.
The top tip to gaining and retaining young volunteers is to focus on what you can offer them instead of what you need. When you are looking at ways to find people who are willing to spend their time doing unpaid work, it is important to take extra time to focus on how you can make accessibility easier for them. This will be different across VCs and charities, but everything you do to improve the accessibility and findability of job opportunities will only increase your chances of reaching young people. Some examples of what you could think about offering are: travel reimbursement (if your organisation has the finances for this), the offer to write a reference for future jobs or personalised feedback and support throughout the volunteering experience.
Students like things simple and often don’t want to spend long amounts of time looking for work. One simple change you can make to increase student volunteer job accessibility is to make your vacancy bank or website mobile friendly. Making it easier for students to view vacancies on the go will only improve your chances of reaching new students.
For example, did you know that every Deedmob platform comes with an app? This makes your platform extra accessible.
Several researchers (Sikkink & Schwartz, 2017; Moore, Warta & Erichson, 2014) have suggested that university-charity linkages would create a positive two-way partnership. Get in contact with your local school or university to find out whether they would be willing to advertise student volunteering opportunities.
Reflecting on feedback and testimonials given by student volunteers is very important as it can help you to alter the ways you recruit depending on what suits your organisation best. After a student has carried out a volunteering opportunity in your organisation, it is useful to ask them to provide some feedback. For example: which parts of the volunteering application post attracted you to apply? Do you feel as though this volunteering experience has been beneficial to your future career? How could we make volunteering opportunities more appealing to students?
You have learnt about the benefits of recruiting student volunteers and we have provided you with a step by step guide to increase their interest in the roles you are offering through opportunity advertisement. Start with making changes to your volunteering opportunities and the students will soon follow!
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