How do we motivate young people to volunteer with us?
Volunteers of all ages, including youth, have many different motivations. You’ll need to get to know your volunteers to find out what motivates them specifically, but here are some things that may particularly motivate young people, according to Trees Forever surveys and various groups experiences.
- Many youth want to participate in something that makes a positive impact. You can help motivate youth by explaining how your project will help to improve the environment and the community.
- Many students need to fulfill volunteer service requirements for graduation. Your group can work with school or college service learning advisors to make sure students know about service opportunities with your group. You can also let Scouting groups in your community know that you are willing to collaborate with Eagle Scout or Gold Award candidates on planting and care projects.
- Many students are looking for experiences that will help them get jobs and/or acceptance into a college or university. Your group members can serve as mentors and future references for youth volunteers who make a serious commitment to your organization. Youth can also add their volunteer service to their resumes or college applications. You can reach out to these students through school or college staff (such as instructors, guidance counselors, and career services), environmental clubs, and organizations such as FFA.
- Many youth volunteers enjoy volunteering with their friends and may feel nervous about coming on their own. Your group can encourage youth participation by inviting groups of youth and using event invitations on social media like Facebook, where they can see that other young people plan to attend.
What are some ways we can involve youth in our projects?
By far the most common way groups have involved youth is in planting projects. This is a great opportunity for youth involvement, but there are many other ways that youth can contribute to your project. If you start working with youth volunteers early in the process, you can let them know what your group needs to do to make the project happen and find out how they would like to get involved. Your group can then work with them to develop expectations that meet the group’s and the young volunteers’ needs. In many cases, youth volunteers will need some training and guidance as they carry out their tasks. Youth volunteers may work on a team with one or more experienced volunteers, and/or they may work independently, but have check-in meetings with the planning committee.
Following are some examples of roles that youth can play in a project. They can help to plan the project, write grant applications or fund-raise. Youth volunteers can also help to get the word out about the project-- in their school or college, among their social networks, and to the general public. Many youth are skilled with social networking sites like Facebook, and may be able to help your group create an on-line presence and train other members on how to maintain it. After the planting, youth volunteers can also help to maintain the planting sites.
How can we work around young peoples’ busy schedules?
Scheduling young volunteers is the most common difficulty that many groups face when they work with youth volunteers. There is no perfect way to avoid all scheduling conflicts, but here are a few successful approaches worth considering.. Many community groups have been successful working with existing groups of youth, such as school or college classes or clubs, or youth organizations like Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H and religious youth groups. These groups often plan to spend some time on service projects each year, and may be looking for a project like yours. From this larger group of youth, you may even find some individuals who want to get involved with your group beyond the initial project.
No matter who you work with, it’s important to start planning early!
If you’re working with a school group, start planning at the start of the semester, or if possible, a semester ahead. This will allow teachers, administrators and club leaders to build the project into their schedules and arrange for issues like transportation. Starting early also gives you an opportunity to involve youth in the planning stages of the project.
Your group may also need to change some of your meeting and event times to accommodate young peoples’ school and work schedules. Once you’ve identified a youth group or some individuals who want to work with you, find out what times work best for them and adjust your schedules, if possible, to meet their needs.
Many young people leave our community after high school. How can we successfully work with youth when there is so much turnover?
While young people leaving the community can be an all-to-frequent reality - it should not be seen as a deterrent to working with younger volunteers. Many of our communities have successfully dealt with this challenge in several ways. Groups can reach out to and involve youth in a wide age range, starting in middle school or even younger. Youth who get involved in their early teens may be able to work with your group for five or more years and take on more responsibility as they mature and gain experience.
Groups can also build strong connections with school and college staff or local youth group leaders to ensure a steady stream of new youth volunteers. Building good relationships with these individuals will also make project planning easier. Your group can also encourage and promote the involvement of youth volunteers’ families, who often remain in town after their children move away.
It’s been a long time since many of our group members were young and times have changed. How can we work successfully with young volunteers?
There are differences between the generations, but some basic principles of good volunteer management will help you work well with volunteers of all ages. These include making your volunteers feel welcome and respected, explaining the purpose of the project, giving clear instructions, providing oversight and personal interaction, and thanking volunteers. When working with groups of youth, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough trained volunteer leaders to provide adequate guidance. Your volunteer leaders (often more experienced group members) should have adequate technical knowledge and volunteer leadership skills. You may want to review our tip sheet on working with volunteers of all ages
with your group members to help prepare them.
I’d like to start a tree planting or care project- where do I begin?
You can start by talking with a Trees Forever field coordinator, who can give you feedback on your ideas and share information about organizing and funding your project. The field coordinator can continue to guide you and your fellow volunteers as you develop your project. If you don’t know who your field coordinator is, please call Trees Forever at 1-800-369-1269 to find out. You can also read about other youth projects featured on the Involving All Generations page
to get ideas, and read about all of Trees Forever’s programs
to find out what kind of projects we support.
I’d like to get involved with Trees Forever projects in my community, but I’m not even sure if there is a group here. How can I find out?
The quickest way to find out what’s going on in your town is to contact your Trees Forever field coordinator. If you don’t know who your field coordinator is, please call Trees Forever at 1-800-369-1269 to find out. You can also look at the Trees Forever events calendar
on our website to see if there are activities scheduled in your town. Not all local activities make it onto the calendar, though, so don’t give up if you don’t see something in your town or area. If your town doesn’t have an active group working with Trees Forever, you may want to consider starting one or getting some other existing local group connected with us! Your field coordinator can help you with that as well.
I’ve got a great project idea. How can I get funding for it?
Trees Forever offers a variety of programs that help to fund and support tree and prairie planting and care projects. To learn more about these programs, you can contact your Trees Forever field coordinator and/or read about our programs online
. If you don’t know who your field coordinator is, please call Trees Forever at 1-800-369-1269 to find out. You can also check out our Project Funding Guide
, which lists grants from Trees Forever and other funding sources.
Can I get service credit for volunteering with Trees Forever?
Many colleges, schools, and organizations have service requirements or offer special incentives for students that serve their communities. Please contact the service-learning adviser or other official in your school or organization to find out how volunteering with Trees Forever can be counted. In some cases, schools or clubs provide paperwork that volunteer supervisors need to sign. Trees Forever field coordinators or community group members can help you verify your service and meet other requirements.