Youth volunteering guidelines

Guidelines to help the third sector, community groups and partners in the public and private sector offer practical and effective volunteering opportunities to young people.



Recruiting young volunteers

How you recruit your volunteers will have a huge impact on the success of your volunteering activities. This is the first 'sell' and the first chance for young people to decide to opt in and give it a try. Keep your communication clear, concise and consistent.

Information should be prioritised and delivered in the simplest way possible to ensure easy access for all audiences. It is vital to be clear about the value and purpose of volunteering and, where possible, to keep opportunities flexible.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the volunteer experience throughout the recruitment process can define someone's decision to volunteer at all. Only ask for essential information at this stage and keep communication smooth and inclusive. This is the volunteer's initial contact with the organisation and it's important to make it a good one. Keep it swift, simple and delivered with a smile!

Be clear and open: What will young people gain?

Be upfront with young people about the role. Communicate what will be expected of them and what type of hard and soft skills they can expect to learn. Value the insight and experience young people bring and highlight what development opportunities are available.

Be inclusive: Is this opportunity accessible to all audiences?

Accessibility comes in many forms. In the recruitment phase make sure your sign-up process is simple, short, flexible and mobile-friendly. When in post, ask young people what they need to fully participate and listen to their needs. Draw on additional support from external agencies as required. Appendix 2 suggests some organisations that might be helpful.

Be relevant: Do your recruitment materials attract your target audience?

Ask young people to review your recruitment process and give feedback. Recruit where young people spend time (online & offline) and start the process with a conversation. Involve existing young people in the process. Having a young volunteer present in the recruitment/selection is a strong and positive signal to potential new recruits that you are a young person friendly organisation.

Be clear and open: What will young people gain?

Gaining skills that will be useful for future employment features high on the list of motivations for young people who engage in volunteering. In fact, over 80% of young people reported that employment opportunities and CV building were positive outcomes of volunteering activities they had taken part in (Youth VIP). However, volunteering does not need to be limited to photocopying and charity collections. Young people can be the best advocates for your work, they can be advisors to your Comms team or can hold your Management Committee to account. Many volunteering opportunities are now online such as the management of social media accounts.

Acquiring softer skills is important too. Young volunteers should leave their role feeling more confident, being better team players or with their first ten hours of commitment to something other than school under their belt. Recognise that for some, becoming a volunteer may be a form of respite from their home life or the only chance to socialise with others of a similar age or interests.

Be inclusive: Is this opportunity accessible to all audiences?

Equality and accessibility featured strongly in the recommendations of the Youth VIP report. Taking very practical steps such as using Equality Impact Assessments for buildings and roles can help to address this. For example, ensuring buildings can be accessed by all volunteers. This does not mean only considering those with disabilities but also taking into account whether it's a space that has good (and cheap!) transport links. It's important to reimburse travel costs. Over 23% of young people surveyed by Youth VIP stated that not having access to financial support was a barrier to them volunteering.

How are young people expected to sign themselves up to the opportunity? Long application forms are disliked (18% of young people cited this as an issue - Youth VIP). Electronic forms that are compatible with mobile phones are preferred.

You may want to provide an option for carers or key workers to be able to fill in the form (with the young person's consent) for those who have additional needs. Remember, young people, are unlikely to have references and may not have ID.

It is worth remembering that volunteering is often a first step back into positive community engagement for young people who have been in the criminal justice system. Specialist help and support is available to help you to support these vulnerable young people through agencies such as SACRO.

Think about how young people with additional needs can be supported to volunteer. Awareness courses and training for some conditions are widely available. It may be as simple as allowing a friend or support worker to be able to accompany your volunteers, where appropriate. Consider liaising with organisations who can offer advice and support in making your opportunity more accessible such as The Scottish Children's Service Coalition (SCSC).

Be relevant: Do your recruitment materials attract your target audience?

Recruitment materials should be appropriate to the volunteering offer, representative of the young people you are hoping to target and concise. Where to go for additional information and how to apply/enrol should be clear. Ask other young people to review your recruitment materials to make sure they are user friendly.

Young people surveyed said that the most common way for them to find out about volunteering opportunities was through schools or other interest groups (Youth VIP). Advertising volunteering opportunities via social media is becoming increasingly popular due to the ability to target very specific groups. 20% of young people surveyed said social media and websites were the preferred locations for finding opportunities to volunteer (Youth VIP). For seldom heard young people, contact local youth organisations, Social Services and Youth Offending teams who may be able to offer additional support to those who are not in employment, education or training.

Using existing young volunteers to attract their peers is a strong proposition. Having a young volunteer present in the recruitment/selection of new volunteers is a strong and positive signal to potential new recruits that you are a young person friendly organisation.

Case Study

Glasgow based Youth Work Charity the GKexperience is founded on the belief that young people are brilliant and that they all deserve the same opportunities in order to enable them to reach their potential. GK has a strong belief that young people from Scotland's most disadvantaged communities are gifted, talented and brilliant, having skills and qualities exclusive to them. The Young Team is a young leaders programme, where young people are identified and invited to be part of an intensive period of training and self-development.

GK start their recruitment from where young people are and build on the strengths they have. They favour relationships and getting to know young volunteers rather than extensive paperwork. They are very clear with young volunteers that the role of a volunteer comes with expectations and hard work but that they are there to support the young person one step at a time.



Back to top