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Volunteering Together: How Your Nonprofit Can Embrace Families Who Volunteer

When it comes to recruiting volunteers, nonprofits sometimes focus on appealing to distinct age groups. However, a recent study suggests that nonprofits should encourage families to volunteer together. The study found that grandparents and parents who volunteer are more likely to have children who volunteer. In fact, more families are adopting volunteerism into their routine.

Willamalane Park and Recreation District places particular importance on family volunteering. “It’s really valuable allow kids to volunteer alongside their parents,” says District Volunteer Coordinator Mavis Sanchez-Scholes. When the whole family is welcomed, parents can both spend time with their loved ones and help the community!

We worked with our friends at Willamalane to bring you some tips on how to recruit family volunteers:

How families benefit your organization

  • Prepare the next generation of volunteers: Two out of three children who volunteer become active adult volunteers later in life, according to this article from Instilling a sense of compassion from an early age means children are more likely to become civically engaged adults.
  • Engage busy parents: How many times have you heard, “I used to do that before I had kids”? Family-friendly volunteering is the perfect opportunity for adults to get active in your community again (plus, parents won’t need to find a sitter). So tell your volunteers to bring the kids along (and why not invite the neighbors, too)!
  • More hands on deck: When the kids come along, you have more helping hands! Children are generally eager to help and learn, so make sure you have plenty of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities!
  • Bring on the smiles: Children have the ability to 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.

How to encourage (and accommodate) family volunteering

Tap into your existing volunteer pool

Start by letting your volunteer community know that families are welcome. Reach out to your existing volunteers and share the benefits of volunteering with their kids (hint: start here). Spotlight family-friendly opportunities on your site and social media channels. Encourage existing volunteers to register as a group, and watch your volunteer base grow!

Liven up weekends

School nights are hectic. Offer your family-friendly events on weekends or during school breaks when families have a bit more time. Parents will be grateful for the perfect solution to a “what do we do with the kids” school-vacation-induced panic.

Make finding opportunities (and registering for them) easy

A robust volunteer management software will allow adults to quickly find family-friendly opportunities and sign up as a group. Make sure to categorize opportunities appropriately and clearly, as you want parents to know definitively if they can bring children.

Promote 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 make friends!

If you’re working with corporate partners, a “bring your kid to volunteer” day is a great way to engage employees and their families (and it’s a chance to create lasting engagement). Get creative: events are an opportunity to bring more of your community together, make a positive impact, and have fun–on a larger scale!

Foster awareness

Volunteering helps kids to develop an awareness of the world around them. Parents may want to discuss volunteerism with their children beforehand (if you have literature for families, send prior to the event). When families arrive, gather all volunteers together to briefly talk about the cause and why it’s important to the community. Children are naturally curious, so spend some time answering their questions.

Support learning by example

In addition to simply getting people involved in the community, volunteering provides valuable learning opportunities. Children learn through both conversation and observation. So, allow adults to demonstrate a skill, then encourage the children to attempt the skill on their own. If you’re a soup kitchen, invite all family members to help with food preparation. Take this opportunity to hold a conversation about food insecurity, for example, before performing the task. What is it like for kids to go to school feeling hungry? How will this meal help a member of your community? These kinds of learning opportunities enrich children’s understanding of challenges others face, and they’ll be able to return home having practiced a new skill like cooking.

Make it a routine

Keep families engaged by making volunteering a tradition, or at least a routine! Have recurring events (once a month tends to be a manageable goal for families) and remind parents when the next opportunity is coming up. Feature these recurring events in your eNewsletter to remind families about all the exciting opportunities coming up. If you have an exciting annual event, reach out to last year’s participants and let them know that you’d love to see them again!

Share impact

An effective volunteer management software will gather statistics about your volunteers’ impact, in terms of hours contributed and money saved. The software also allows you to share impact with your volunteers. Sanchez-Scholes reports that her volunteers love to see how many hours they’ve accrued, and families can get excited about the impact they’ve accomplished together. Impact reports, and easy access to additional opportunities, keep volunteers engaged and coming back.

Have fun!

Volunteering can be lots of fun! Harness the energy and excitability of youth. Let the kids shine, allowing them to participate fully and to be joyful and silly when appropriate. Happiness is contagious! Chances are, you’ll see these families at your next event.

More resources to check out:

Introducing Kids to Volunteerism

Tips for Volunteering with Kids

Volunteer with Your Kids

A Tradition on Giving: New research on giving and volunteering within families