As the weather warms or the holidays approach, families look for ways to spend meaningful time together. And some families and friend groups turn to volunteering as a fun, social activity suitable for all ages.
Your organization and community will benefit from accommodating families. But is your volunteer program set up to welcome children and adults? Read on for our top best practices for making your volunteer program family-friendly.
- Benefits of Family Volunteering
- How to Recruit Volunteer Families
- More Best Practices for Family-Friendly Volunteer Programs
Benefits of Family Volunteering
When families and friends volunteer together, everyone wins! Here are just some of the benefits to your volunteer program, your volunteers, and your community:
Benefits for Volunteer Programs
There are lots of benefits to welcoming volunteers, from young children to older adults:
- Prepare the Next Generation of Volunteers. Two out of three children who volunteer become active adult volunteers later in life. Research also suggests that children whose grandparents and parents volunteer are more likely to become volunteering adults. In other words, instilling a sense of compassion from an early age means children are more likely to become civically engaged adults.
- Build a Larger Support Base. Reach more supporters with your mission when you welcome volunteers of all ages. Plus, when families participate together, you’ll have more helping hands to get the job done.
- Reach New Supporters. Engage people who might not typically have access to traditional volunteer opportunities. When you create an inclusive environment that welcomes children, older adults, and groups, your program becomes even more accessible.
- Contagious Enthusiasm. Children are generally eager to help and learn, and this enthusiasm can be contagious! Your little helpers come with plenty of smiles that may just encourage other volunteers to have fun and participate again.
Benefits for Families
When the whole family is welcomed, parents can both spend time with their loved ones and help the community:
- Impart Values. Children learn through observation and model adults’ behavior. Volunteering with children teaches values that families work so diligently to instill, like selflessness, responsibility, and gratitude.
- Lead Healthier, Happier Lives. Volunteering offers lots of health benefits. It’s one of the best ways to keep the family active, socialize, and create a sense of purpose—a winning recipe for positive mental health outcomes.
- Spend Meaningful Time Together. Volunteering together can strengthen family bonds while positively impacting the community!
Benefits for Communities
Children can bring people joy just by being themselves. Places like elderly-care homes, animal shelters, and hospitals will be grateful for all the smiles your little helpers inspire. Plus, when you harness the power of volunteers of all ages and abilities, your impact grows and your community is better for it!
How to Recruit Volunteer Families
When it comes to recruiting volunteers, volunteer programs tend to appeal to distinct age groups. However, your organization can benefit by reducing barriers to getting involved for families.
These recruitment strategies are a sure-fire way to get families excited about volunteering with your program:
Develop Family-Friendly Volunteer Opportunities
One of the essential components of any family-friendly volunteer program is offering engaging, accessible programs for all family members, from grandparents to small children. You may have to adopt some of your current activities or create new ones. Remember that your family-friendly opportunities should still address real needs in the community.
Start by assessing the opportunities you already have.
Considerations for Planning Family-Friendly Volunteer Opportunities:
- Which of your current programs involve activities that could allow for family participation?
- How can you adapt some of your activities for children of all ages?
- Can you adapt opportunities to accommodate groups?
The name of the game here is to simplify. Simplify your opportunities by breaking them into manageable yet impactful tasks that children can accomplish with supervision.
Let’s say your volunteers prepare and serve home-cooked meals. Accommodate families by creating stations where each group can accomplish a single task, noting which tasks are child-friendly (like peeling vegetables or serving bread rolls). Make sure every station has at least one adult supervising the activity. You’ll be surprised just how much these little helpers can accomplish!
Family Volunteering Ideas:
- Packing backpacks for school children
- Making sandwiches for individuals facing food insecurity
- Collecting and sorting pantry donations
- Beautifying a community garden
- Cleaning up a public beach
- Fundraising for a special cause
- Playing board games at a residential care facility
Let’s face it: sometimes volunteering simply isn’t achievable for families. So if you want to engage parents, children, and other busy prospects, you’ll need to reduce barriers to getting involved.
Here are our top tips for creating an inclusive environment for families:
Make it easy for families to locate and register for your organization’s family-friendly volunteering opportunities. Create a section or filter on your volunteer website that displays the activities appropriate for children.
Then, invite family members to register online. Empower your volunteers to self-select the shifts that work for them. Volunteer management software will help you here. A robust will also automatically reserve spots for all participants and help you streamline communication, saving you lots of administrative time.
Offer Flexible Scheduling
School nights can get hectic. So, offer family-friendly activities on weekends or school breaks when families have more time.
Remember that young children probably won’t be able to complete a full day’s work, so ask for only an hour or two of their time. Break your volunteer activity into staggered shifts, so you know you’ll have the helping hands you need throughout the day.
Managing volunteer shifts—especially with volunteer groups—can quickly become tedious without the right tools in place. Leverage your volunteer management platform to take the guesswork out of scheduling.
Organizations recognize that virtual volunteering increases access for some who want to get involved but may not be able to participate in traditional in-person volunteering.
Expand your impact by offering at-home volunteer activities for families. In fact, some of your current programs can be adapted to accommodate remote volunteerism.
Need inspiration? Start with these virtual volunteer ideas great for families:
- Making toys for shelter animals
- Zoom buddies with older adults
- Packing lunches for those in need
- Gathering supplies for hygiene kits
- Virtual storytime with other children
With an array of user-friendly technology available, virtual volunteering is entirely achievable for most community organizations. Check out this guide to recruiting and managing your virtual volunteer programs.
Tap Into Your Existing Volunteer Pool
Your current supporters are some of your best assets for volunteer recruitment. Get the word out by letting your volunteer community know that families are welcome.
Reach out to your volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders and share the benefits of volunteering with family and friends. Include a call to take action—a simple message like this will do the trick, “sign-up to volunteer with your family and watch our impact grow!”
Note: Lean on your corporate partners. Host a “bring your kid to volunteer day” at your next corporate volunteer event. It’s a great way to engage employees and their families, and a chance to create lasting engagement.
Consider Your Marketing Strategy
You’ll need to adjust your marketing strategy depending on the types of volunteers you want to recruit. So, if you’d like to get kids involved in volunteering, you’ll need to appeal to their parents or caregivers.
Welcome new families to your neighborhood by dropping off a gift bag of treats and community resources (local library information, a map of the best recreation spots, a list of social groups for families), then take this opportunity to advertise your organization’s family volunteer program.
Incorporate your family volunteer program into your social media rotation. Think about where civically engaged families interact online. Start with local parent Facebook groups and other community forums where you can post about your family-friendly volunteer opportunities. You may even partner with local schools to leverage their communication systems, like their email newsletters and websites, and advertise your program.
Of course, you’ll also want to feature your family-friendly volunteer opportunities on your organization’s social media accounts.
More Top Tips for Your Family-Friendly Volunteer Program
Ready to harness the enthusiasm and energy of your family volunteers? These tips will help you support an inclusive volunteer program so you always have the volunteers you need.
Keep Training and Orientation Brief
It takes a lot to get the family out the door. The last thing parents want is drawn-out training that won’t keep their children’s attention. So, create a brief training and orientation session when families arrive on site.
You can even send engaging digital orientation materials before the event. These materials should introduce your cause and set expectations, like a video and a brief quiz that families can work through together. Virtual training means families are ready to get started on volunteer day.
Highlight Your Events
Events are a great way to introduce families to your organization because event volunteering often calls for large groups and lots of children! Outdoor events are especially appealing for families who like plenty of space to be active and tons of variety for those youthful attention spans. Consider designating projects and activities that older children can manage together; they’ll appreciate the independence and responsibility—plus, they’ll have a chance to socialize.
Keep it Fun!
Volunteering can be lots of fun! Harness the energy and excitability of youth and let the kids shine. Allow them to participate fully and to be joyful and silly when appropriate. After all, happiness is contagious! Chances are, you’ll see these families at your next event.
Support Learning and Foster Awareness
In addition to simply getting people involved in the community, volunteering provides valuable learning opportunities. Volunteering helps children and teenagers develop an awareness of the world around them. So, if you have literature and videos for families, send them over a few days before their shift.
Children learn through conversation, observation, and action. Children are naturally curious, so spend some time discussing the volunteer activity and how it impacts the community. Ask meaningful, open-ended questions, and invite children to share their thoughts.
Take learning a step further by letting children practice new skills. Allow adults to demonstrate a skill, then encourage the children to attempt the skill on their own. These kinds of learning opportunities enrich children’s understanding of challenges others face, and they’ll develop confidence in their own abilities.
Children and adults like to know that their actions have a real impact on the community. Your volunteers will love to see how many hours they’ve accrued, and families can get excited about the tasks they’ve accomplished together.
A powerful volunteer management software will gather statistics about your volunteers’ impact, and can even produce reports for entire families and groups. Your volunteers will be able to view and share their hard work, keeping the whole family engaged and coming back.