How to Ruin Your Volunteer Program in One Well Intended (Opportunistic) Step

It happens to all of us.  We want to cut corners or add an intergenerational show of support for our newest idea.  So someone within your organization will offer up “Let’s get the teens to do it!”.  You either:

a) nod your head excitedly thinking to yourself that it will be great for your teens to help beyond just your department.

b) nod your head unsure of how to tell your higher ups that you think this might not work but resign yourself to try anyway.

DON’T DO IT.  This will kill your successful volunteer program faster than asking them to wear matching uniforms.  Faster than blasting the saxophone intro to Careless Whisper looped for 10 hours straight.  (I’ve done this with Justin, it’s not so bad…)

Teens are not free labor.  You should know this because of the amount of time you spend cultivating them and your program and because of the amount of money you spend on rewarding them.

To ask your teens to do things they have expressed no interest in doing is ludicrous.  Would you ask a random group of adults to do the same and expect overwhelmingly positive response?

Keep in mind their motivation for volunteering probably doesn’t have to do with increasing your programming revenue.  It probably doesn’t have to do with mass producing chotchkies to sell various fundraisers.  (Why is it these “opportunities” always revolve around making money?)

Don’t let outsiders tell your teens what to do.  Especially by using you as a mouthpiece.  You’ll lose all credibility in your teens’ eyes and you’ll be left to start from scratch again.  Well, you can start again once their tween siblings who heard all about it the dinner table age out and the next generation of kids who don’t know about your past crimes will give you a chance.

If you absolutely need their help with this kind of work make it well worth their while.  Give everyone an iTunes gift card.  Give them all tickets to the movies afterward.  And most importantly, do not TELL your regulars this is their next task.  This is exactly why Teen Advisory Boards are failing these days.  Advertise these volunteer opportunities separately along with their awesome prizes and pull in folks who know exactly what they’re signing up for.


michael scott

One response to “How to Ruin Your Volunteer Program in One Well Intended (Opportunistic) Step

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