I was a slacker in high school.
You laugh, but it was true. I never joined ANYTHING in high school. I openly mocked people who were active and involved. How ironic that not only do I love service and consider it my life’s mission to get as many people active around the world that I can, but my GIRLS are the ultimate joiners. They are involved in a minimum of 5 activities each. Some would call them uber joiners… jeez, does God have a sense of humor or what?
I thought about volunteering when I was younger, I wanted to volunteer but for some unknown reason never followed through. Remember my blog post a couple of days ago, where I whined (only a little) about no one asking me to volunteer? No one asked, and I never took it upon myself to seek out the opportunity.
Shame on me.
What could have been helpful to get the teen-age me over the finish line?
- Guidance –Some direction about where I could volunteer and what I needed to do could have been really helpful for me to get out of my bed on Saturday morning and away from the cartoons. Someone making the entire process from soup to nuts, painless and brainless would have been nice. Service learning programs are a great and easy way to get young people engaged, but when I was in high school we had no such programs.
- Encouragement – I had problems in high school. I had a low interest in everything and lived my life on the sideline just waiting for high school to end. Some kids are shy or think that volunteering is for those “other” kids. Sincere encouragement from a teacher, trusted peer, or adult could have gotten some fresh volunteer blood into a local organization. If I’m being honest, asking me in high school was too late! Someone should have asked me in elementary school. Kids who are asked to volunteer at an early age have an increased chance of becoming a life long volunteer.
- Bestie – I was all about fun. I also needed a tribe of my besties (my best friends) with me at every point in time. I needed my posse. If we all could not volunteer together– then count me out. An opportunity to volunteer with a friend could have made a world of difference.
I am now in my 40s, and I think the three suggestions I mentioned for the teenage-me could also work for the the 40+ year-old me.
Guidance – I still need easy and quick ways to learn about volunteer opportunities. This can happen through the internet or my mobile device. I still want the entire process soup to nuts to be easy and breezy. Did I say make it convenient?
Encouragement –Build a virtual community I can connect with. Have meaningful work for me that lets me utilize my skills, including my professional ones. I can stuff envelopes, mentor youth AND help you create a marketing campaign for your organization. Work with me to create a plan to get and keep me engaged. Mentor me..oh and THANK ME and invite me to return.
Bestie – I am all about fun! I do not need a tribe of besties with me at every point in time, but I do want an opportunity to volunteer with my family. That could be children or grandparents, siblings or cousins. My free time is limited so being able to connect with friends or family in a meaningful way is important to me . Volunteering with loved ones sounds like the perfect opportunity.
Take away: Taking the time to explore the barriers that keep people, of all ages from volunteering with your organization will pay off in the long run. Deconstructing the how and why your current volunteer base became active will lead to great insight on the steps you need to take to recruit and retain volunteers in the future.