Family Volunteer Insights for Small Organizations

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Points of Light recently partnered with Disney Parks to create a guide for small organizations for working with family volunteers. We interviewed 1,000 participants of organizations under a $1 million revenue who have participated in the Disney Family Volunteering Rewards Program to understand how to encourage schools and non-profits to engage families in volunteer activities. We wanted to know how to create programs that work for families, how to recruit families to participate and how to make it easy – and fun! – for them to volunteer.

Here’s what we heard from project coordinators we surveyed about how to engage families and young people in volunteer efforts:

  • Include Youth Voices in Planning: Talk to young people about why volunteering matters. Let their excitement help make it a family priority. Let them describe what they’re doing – they use simple words – and can quickly explain how they’re having an impact.
  • Communicate via Multiple Methods Well in Advance and with Reminders: Send an email and a text. Remind volunteer families several weeks before, a week before, day before and the day-of. People are busy and reminders help to ensure they fulfill their intention and their commitment to volunteer. If you can, keep your events at the same time of year – so families can plan.
  • Create a Family-Friendly Environment: Ensure families know that their children of all ages are welcome. Make plenty of age-appropriate activities available and create opportunities for little ones to help. Make sure there are plenty of kid-friendly refreshments as well.
  • Reward Volunteers: Create incentives for your volunteers to want to come back, and make sure they know about the impact they’re having. Offer student volunteers extra hours if they bring a parent or feature students with families who volunteer on social media.
  • Start Early, Plan and Be Organized: Make sure people feel as if their time is being used well. If they have a great experience, they’re more likely to return. The organization I worked with didn’t have a lot of success doing several small family volunteer events throughout the year in a city where there were so many competing interests. However, doing an “end of the year” project where students got to show off their work and win prizes combined with the group volunteering experience resulted in higher attendance and participation each year. We used their time – and ours – efficiently and it worked well for everyone.

Family and youth volunteer projects are so impactful – and getting them right makes a huge difference for families and for the people and organizations who benefit from their service!

You can download the full Small Organization Family Volunteer Insights here. And to learn more about the Disney Family Volunteering Reward Program – which rewards eligible schools and nonprofits with up to 20 Disney Parks tickets per year for hosting family volunteer projects – visit www.pointsoflight.org/disneyrewards.

Lauren Reynolds

Points of Light

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