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Family Volunteers

Reprinted from VolunteerHub.com

A new nonprofit geared toward getting young children involved in volunteering was recently launched in Austin, Texas. The organization, called Little Helping Hands, was founded by Marissa Fogel. In a September 8 press release, Fogel explains her reasons for starting the cause: "I started Little Helping Hands to inspire community service in early childhood and to show that it can be a fun and positive learning experience for the entire family." She further points out, "Introducing children as young as four to volunteerism creates a foundation for acts of compassion, generosity, and responsibility throughout adolescence and into adulthood—not to mention a wonderful way to spend time together as a family." Because the group's mission is to get children involved, most activities take place after school or on weekends and are chosen with all age groups in mind.

From a volunteer coordinator's perspective, attracting entire households to help out at your organization is obviously a great way to boost any program. With National Family Volunteer Day scheduled for November 21 of this year, now may be the perfect opportunity to get families to join your efforts. This annual day of service falls on the first Saturday before Thanksgiving and is sponsored by the HandsOn Network. The day also receives a great deal of support from Disney, giving savvy coordinators the opportunity to leverage a household brand when trying to tap into this demographic. In 2010, Disney is even planning a "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" promotion, in which those who volunteer with a participating agency for a day will receive a free one-day admission to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. To learn more about how your organization can participate in this program, go to http://www.handsonnetwork.org/disney.

Attracting families can be tricky, so here are some suggestions. For starters, you certainly want to be visible in places where families gather. Some suggestions would be schools, churches, recreation centers, Boy Scout/Girl Scout meetings, and youth sports facilities. Whether you speak to folks in person or simply leave marketing materials, remember to highlight the benefits to the family. For instance, FamilyCares.org points out that volunteering as a family:

  • Strengthens family communications and bonds
  • Allows family members to be role models
  • Builds shared memories
  • Increases commitment to volunteering and community
  • Provides quality family time

Pointing out benefits to the volunteers will certainly help your case for recruitment, so don't be shy about explaining that volunteering is a win-win activity.

The final piece of the puzzle is ensuring that you have projects appropriate for various age groups. You don't want family-driven projects to be so difficult that children can't do them or so simple that adults are bored. Again, FamilyCares has many great ideas on its Web site that you can use as a starting point for your own planning. The site also gives details of projects in which even very young children can participate.

Shawn Kendrick, VolunteerHub.com
© 2009, VolunteerHub.com. Reprinted with permission.

Shawn Kendrick blogs for VolunteerHub.com, the latest version of a system first conceived in 1996 to facilitate volunteer registration for the University of Michigan's campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Since its humble beginnings, the service has grown to offer a wide range of features for event, event registration, and volunteer workforce management. Today VolunteerHub connects people and purposes for a variety of nonprofit, educational, and commercial organizations.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice