When Points of Light 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. We wanted to understand how to encourage schools and nonprofits 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 When Planning Family Volunteering Opportunities
Talk to young people about why volunteering matters. Let their excitement help make it a family priority. Let them describe what they’re doing, and explain how they’re having an impact.
Communicate Via Multiple Methods Well in Advance With Reminders
Send an email and a text. Remind volunteer families several weeks before, a week before, a day before and the day of. People are busy, and reminders help ensure they fulfill their intention and their commitment to volunteer. If you can, keep your events at the same time of year to make it easy for families to plan and stay engaged year after year.
Create a Family-friendly Environment
Ensure families know that children of all ages are welcome. Make plenty of age-appropriate activities available and create opportunities for little ones to help. Provide kid-friendly refreshments, too.
Create incentives for your volunteers to want to come back, and share the impact they’re having. Offer student volunteers extra hours if they bring parents, 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. Some organizations don’t have a lot of success doing several small family volunteer events throughout the year in cities where there are so many competing interests. However, doing an “end of the year” project, for example, where students get to show off their work and win prizes, combined with the group volunteering experience, often results in higher attendance and participation each year.
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.
Download the full Small Organization Family Volunteer Insights, and to learn more about the Disney Family Volunteering Reward Program. It which rewards eligible schools and nonprofits with up to 20 Disney Parks tickets per year for hosting family volunteer projects – visit pointsoflight.org/disneyrewards.