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Volunteer-Matters

When families volunteers the benefits are far reaching

Helping families volunteer

How many families volunteer in your organization?

As we all know, social impact organizations thrive on the dedication and enthusiasm of volunteers. But it can be hard to find enough of them.

One often overlooked but incredibly valuable demographic is families. When families volunteer, it not only strengthens community bonds but also instills the spirit of giving back in younger generations.

Here are some practical steps that social impact organizations can take to include families in their volunteering.

1. Identify family-friendly opportunities.

Find opportunities that offer a variety of tasks suitable for different age groups. This could include activities like gardening, packing care packages, or participating in community clean-up projects. Things that run the range of very simple tasks for the youngest volunteers to more complex or demanding tasks for those who are older. Also, these opportunities should be available on days and times that fit around school and work schedules.

2. Create a welcoming environment.

Greet families warmly, making them feel valued and appreciated from the moment they arrive. Ensure that everything necessary is accessible to small people as well as large. It’s not very welcoming if a child can’t access the washroom on their own.

Also, ensure your communication is very clear right from the beginning. Provide clear instructions and information about the tasks and requirements. Families, especially those with small children, need to know what to expect. Will they be outside and should bring raincoats or sunscreen? Will they be in wilderness areas and should have good footwear? This kind of information can go a long way toward making families enjoy their volunteer experience.

3. Plan family-centric events.

Host special events specifically designed for families, where both adults and children can actively participate. This could include educational workshops, craft sessions, or storytelling circles related to the cause.

Food-related events are also popular with families—especially those with teenagers. Picnics, potlucks, any informal gathering like that after volunteering will end their shift on a positive note. Sharing a meal together always fosters a sense of camaraderie among families, not to mention the other volunteers. Everyone likes food.

4. Nurture a sense of purpose.

Highlight the impact they’re making. Clearly articulate how each family member's contribution makes a difference. Personalize stories and statistics to showcase the tangible outcomes of their efforts. Mentioning a child’s name in connection with the project can make a huge impact on whether a family is likely to return. “We collected 139 bags of garbage today, of which three were gathered by five-year-old Fatima! She helped make a big difference in how much nicer our park looks.”

6. Foster a sense of community.

Building friendships within the volunteering community enhances the overall experience for everyone. Studies have shown that volunteers who make friends with the other volunteers are much more likely to stay with the organization long-term. This applies equally well to families. Perhaps more so, as kids can become very attached to their friends and want to go to the places where they can meet them.

7. And, as always, show appreciation.

Notice and comment on the work they do, as they’re doing it. In-the-moment thank-yous can go a long way toward making volunteers, whether families or not, feel that their doing a good job and are making a difference.

Send personalized thank-you notes or gift cards for donuts or ice cream to families, to express gratitude for their contributions, especially when they’ve gone above and beyond. Also be willing to fill out school forms acknowledging their volunteer hours, or offer to serve as a job reference to older kids who are looking for summer jobs.

Remember your family volunteers when choosing a volunteer of the month, or posting about a successful event This can be something that they can share with their friends and feel good about. Make sure that you have the family’s permission to post names or pictures, though.

Finally, ensure that your annual recognition events are appropriate for families to attend. Think more backyard barbeque rather than an evening dinner dance. Most volunteers seem to be leaning more toward informal events anyway.

Helping families volunteer benefits everyone. Integrating families into volunteering programs not only expands the pool of potential volunteers but it also nurtures a culture of empathy and social responsibility within communities. Social impact organizations can create an inclusive environment where families are valued partners in creating a better world for all.

Every helping hand counts, even the smallest ones. Together, families can make a significant and lasting impact on society. Give it a try.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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