A Youth-Inspired MovementSouper Bowl of Caring started as youth-led movement in Columbia, SC in 1990. Although various age groups participate in our movement today, Souper Bowl of Caring is still highly youth-inspired, priding itself in empowering young people to be next generation leaders. Unlike Souper Bowl of Caring, many other nonprofits struggle with engaging young volunteers. Nonprofits seek to find out what are the key motivators for youth and teens, what inspires them to even volunteer with an organization in the first place and most importantly what keeps them coming back.
Next Generation LeadersDespite the popular myth, youth and teens in this generation are NOT lazy and actually want to volunteer. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the volunteer rates among teens 16-19 were relatively high at 26.4%. I believe the biggest problem young people today face is access to volunteer opportunities. According to the generationOn Ready-Set-Go Resource Guide, "Many teens would love to volunteer, they just don't know how to get started." If nonprofits are not willing to go out and specifically find youth and teens to volunteer, many of these volunteer opportunities go unfulfilled. Souper Bowl of Caring makes volunteering easy for young people because we specifically target schools and places of worship to attract youth volunteers. In 2016, approximately 107,000 youth participated with our organization.
Youth Engagement & RetentionBesides having access to these volunteer opportunities, another concern nonprofits have is how to actually capture and keep the interest of young people. The number one way I found is to provide opportunities which allow them to volunteer with friends. A perfect example of this is how I personally have a lot more fun volunteering with my sorority sisters, than simply waking up on an early Saturday morning to volunteer by myself.
Another key factor in motivating youth to volunteer is by letting them have a say in what they do. This can be done by providing a wide range of volunteer opportunities within your organization. For those volunteers who are more introverted, sorting and filing reports may be rewarding, and for those who are more extroverted, client interaction and more hands-on activities may cultivate passionate youth volunteers. Setting up a Souper Bowl of Caring collection allows youth and teens the flexibility in setting up their own unique ways to collect, whether they choose to do a competition between two groups, or host a pep rally at school.
Last but not least, provide incentives to volunteer with your organization. Whether we like to admit it or not, as humans we are wired to think what benefit is this providing me. Young people think the same way too! Incentives come in all shapes are sizes. This could be by providing them with a free T-shirt when they volunteer, or featuring volunteers in a weekly spotlight. Simply sitting down with them and helping them add your organization to their resumes, or even by them acknowledgement on a job well done can help continue to motivate these young volunteers. Different methods may work for your organization, so find out what works for you.
"The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. ... And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community." -- Carmen Martinez