If you’ve decided that involving family volunteers is the right thing for your organization, then here are a few helpful resources to get you started.
If you want to publicize your opportunities and/or events, please login with our service provider, VolunteerMatch.
If you’re just starting to recruit families, we have some ideas to help your organization become family-volunteer friendly.
If you’ve planned your event and publicized your need for volunteers, then there are a few things to keep in mind. Often times, it is important to provide an orientation for your volunteers so they have an understanding of what is expected of them. See our orientation section for some great ideas on how to do this.
Family volunteers often include youth and young children, and providing adequate supervision during your volunteer activities is often a daunting task. Our supervising youth and family volunteers section will help.
Concerned about the legal issues surrounding utilizing family volunteers? See our liability section for more information.
After your event(s), it is important that your volunteers feel that their work is recognized. Otherwise, they may not be willing to volunteer at other company sponsored events. See our recognizing family volunteers section for ideas on how to make sure people feel appreciated for all of their hard work.
The idea of families volunteering at your organization may be appealing in theory, but maybe you’re having a hard time figuring out how families can help your organization specifically. Sometimes working with families requires flexibility and a willingness to work outside the regular volunteer-box. The following questions and ideas have been designed to assist you as you volunteer with families.
- Think about the needs of your organization and the people you serve. Which of your current programs involve activities that families (including children of different ages) could help with? Perhaps you require highly trained staff. Are there other types of things family volunteers could do to help?
- When families contact you about volunteering, learn what their strengths, interests and talents are. What activities or events could you have in the future that would accommodate family volunteers and utilize their strengths, creativity, and enthusiasm?
- If the opportunities working directly with the people that you serve are not very feasible for families to assist with, could they help indirectly? For example, could families make decorations or assist in other ways for special events? Could families make lunches for people in need? Or could they make other types of food? Could they help collect specific items on a wish list? Would the people you serve benefit by having a whole family visit them instead of just one volunteer? Or could a family visit multiple people?
- What are ways you could adapt your current programs to make them more family friendly?
- Think about times when families are more available to help out, including evenings, holidays or weekends. When do you schedule your programs and events? Are there opportunities outside of the regular Monday-Friday 9-5 work week? Are they held during times that allow families to be present?
Recent times have been especially challenging for non-profit and philanthropic organizations. Funding is tight, and many agencies seem to be constantly understaffed and over stressed. The Volunteer Family was formed to address this need for additional help. Our goal is to strengthen the familial bonds of our community while helping local agencies like yours achieve your objectives. When your organization works with TVF to undertake a family volunteering initiative, you will enjoy immediate and direct benefits. You will:
- Broaden your outreach to the community
- Expand and diversify your volunteer population
- Enhance service effectiveness
- Grow future generations of volunteers and supporters
- Provide role models for clients
- Improve community image and relations
- Find new ways of meeting needs and solving problems with new perspectives
How We Can Help You! As you know, developing appealing assignments is the key to any successful volunteer effort. Your mission is uniquely important, and our primary goal is to help you achieve your objectives. Depending on your needs, we can help you expand your existing volunteer jobs or develop new projects that would appeal to families and contribute to your mission. TVF can even offer helpful hints for more effectively supervising and recognizing family volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conducting an orientation for new volunteers is always a good idea. It helps keep volunteers comfortable and provides them with the organization’s background and practical knowledge. It can also be an efficient way for your organization to clearly share your rules and expectations for volunteers. If the volunteers understand the organization’s systems, operations and procedures, they can contribute more productively. Family volunteers also need an orientation to your organization. Each family member needs to know why they should be working here and what is expected of them, as individuals and as a group. Orientations for family volunteers should be adapted to be appropriate for the age and attention span of the children and youth involved, while also meeting your organization’s needs. It would be ideal to adapt a short orientation – no longer than 15 minutes in length – geared towards multiple ages and including questions for the participants, visual materials, and an interactive component. Your orientation could include:
- A summary of your organization’s mission and values
- The history of the organization
- Your programs and services
- A description of the future plans of the organization.
The goal of this discussion is to allow the family to make an intellectual and emotional commitment to the basic purpose of the organization and to consciously decide that they believe in and are willing to work towards achieving your organization’s mission. Consider including the following subjects for the orientation – particularly important for families interested in volunteering as an ongoing commitment:
- A tour of the work area
- The names and responsibilities of other volunteers or people they will interact with
- Your own schedule and when you will be available for questions
- Where the volunteers can leave personal property
- Where the volunteers will work
- Location of equipment and supplies (if any) the volunteer is authorized to use
- The names of the staff the volunteers should notify when they arrive/leave each day
- A review of how you will address performance problems
During the orientation, it’s important to make it clear that parents are responsible for supervising and helping their own children. A question you might ask yourself when designing this orientation session is: What do my new volunteers need to know to feel at home here? No one remembers everything he hears, so develop a packet of written material for the family to keep and review after the session. Parents may want to review all of the pertinent information with their children before they begin their volunteer service.
“The organization must have a mission and function in which youth volunteers will have some reason to want to be a part. The organization and its staff must want the participation of youth volunteers and believe that youth will actively assist the organization in achieving its mission and function.” - Martha Mercer
Utilizing family volunteers is an extremely efficient and effective way to recruit additional help and supporters of your mission. Young people can be excellent and committed assistants, and recruiting an entire family to help multiplies the number of volunteers and increases the chance that they will continue to do work for you. When parents and their children are educated, valued and supervised adequately, families have the potential to become one of your organization’s greatest assets. A 2001 Independent Sector report reveals that family volunteers perform, on average, 23 percent more hours of weekly volunteer work than other volunteers. 98% of social service agencies who involved families found it to be very effective, and 96% said that family volunteering offers unique ways to provide services. The most effective supervisory technique is to allow family members to focus on the same assignment, truly volunteering as a unit. If the children are old enough (high school age or above), another option is that everyone comes in together but then scatters to do individual work. Here are some tips for supervising family volunteers:
- Get to know all the volunteers and don’t fall into the trap of dealing only with the adults. It is recommended to ask the family to designate one main contact person so that you can communicate consistently with one person, especially for things like schedule changes.
- Help the family to organize their assignment so that all members are doing tasks they enjoy and are good at.
- Suggest that one or more family members break away to do a special assignment whenever you sense tension or see that someone wants to do more.
- Find ways to recognize each individual for his or her contribution as well as thanking the family as a unit.
By involving family volunteers in your agency, you are providing opportunities for children to become involved in volunteering at an early age, which often translates to them volunteering throughout their lives. You can show the impact they have had on your organization by discussing the contributions made by your family volunteers and how such progress would not have been possible without their help. In reality, you and your organization will benefit more than you ever thought possible.
Many organizations are concerned about the liability of involving youth in their volunteer projects. It is always wise to consult with your attorney and/or insurance company before undergoing a youth or family volunteer program, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of liability.
The Volunteer Family is a volunteer matching service and we do not accept responsibility for the actions of our volunteers or the agencies they serve. However, we provide the following tips and resources to help you if you are concerned about this issue.
- Some D&O policies cover volunteers. To determine whether your policy protects volunteers, schedule a review with your insurance company. If volunteers are not covered, you may want to purchase a policy that provides such coverage.
- You should ensure that your organization also has general liability coverage, which covers bodily injuries to third parties. If volunteers are driving, it is a good idea to ensure that they have car insurance. To cover employees, your organization should also have workers compensation. We suggest that part of your workers compensation package should be accident insurance for volunteers.
- Your organization and volunteer coordinator should ensure that volunteer services assigned to a minor are performed in a non-hazardous environment and comply with all appropriate requirements of child labor laws. For a listing of child labor law contacts in your area, log on to http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/youthlabor/YouthEmploymentTraining.htm.
- We always recommend that each organization get the written consent of a parent or legal guardian before allowing volunteers under 18 to volunteer.
The Volunteer Family does NOT accept liability for any of the youth volunteers who find volunteer opportunities through our organization. The Volunteer Family also does not perform CORI or SORI checks directly, since the need for background checks varies according to the agency where the volunteer will be performing the service.
If your organization is familiar with and complies with these regulations, your risk will be greatly reduced and you will be able to begin to benefit from the help of family volunteers.
Recognition and celebration of family volunteers is very important. It can provide visibility for your program and helps strengthen positive group identity among the families participating. It also can keep families motivated and help recruit and retain future volunteers. Here are some tips for celebrating your volunteers’ accomplishments:
- Recognition should be an honest, personal ongoing message rather than a one-time, end-of-service event. Small, inexpensive ideas include buying the volunteer a water when necessary, sending holiday or birthday cards, or simply smiling and saying “thank you.”
- Tailor your recognition to the individual families involved, making sure to take into account family and cultural differences.
- Vary how you recognize participants for families that have contributed for a long time. Some ideas may include a thoughtful thank you card, a certificate of appreciation, or a donated gift certificate.
Celebrations and recognition are important to the closure of a service project. There are many ways to recognize the contributions of a family volunteer while helping to achieve your mission at the same time. Here are some ideas:
- Create events exclusively devoted to recognizing and commending volunteers.
- Throw a party and distribute certificates or flowers to volunteers.
- Make buttons or T-shirts to thank volunteers.
- To highlight the accomplishments of your volunteers, invite local journalists to develop feature stories that salute them.