Volunteering addresses all kinds of needs: Feeding the hungry; protecting the environment; making life better for animals, kids, or seniors. Whatever the purpose, your volunteer efforts make a difference.
Imagine the difference that can be made with more than just you. Enlisting your peers can make the experience more enjoyable for you and provide them with important opportunities as well. So how can you get other students interested and involved in volunteering?
Take the initiative
Ben Gardner, Associate Director of the Community Engagement and Volunteering Center at Clark University, says the most important step is simply taking the first step. “Ask them,” he says. “They may not have volunteered before, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested.” Often, people will respond positively when asked to participate in volunteering (or other activities) when a request from a friend acts as a catalyst.
In the process, it helps you share your own interests or experiences. “Storytelling makes things more relatable and is a fantastic motivating strategy,” Gardner says. “Share your own experiences and talk about the difference that the organization you volunteer with has made in the lives of others.”
A great strategy in getting others involved is to focus on a single short-term activity. Instead of asking for a long-term commitment, invite a friend or acquaintance to accompany you on a volunteer project that takes a half-day or less.
“It’s often easiest to start with a one-time service event,” Gardner says. “Fundraiser walks, dinner servings, clean-ups, and so forth only take a few hours but can help people connect to a cause and visualize what volunteering more often might look like for them.”
Make it easy
Stepping up to a new activity isn’t always a breeze. Everyone has experienced the awkward feeling of finding your way to a place you’ve never been to before or introducing yourself to strangers. When connecting a friend to a volunteer opportunity, try to avoid the awkwardness by making things as easy as possible.
Offer to drive them to the volunteer event, or if you don’t drive, pay for bus fare for both of you. Take them out for a meal or a snack and while enjoying it together, give a preview of what to expect. If the activity is one you’re already involved in, take some photos that show other volunteers in action. The greater the comfort level, the better the odds of making a new volunteer role seem attractive.
Focus on the benefits
Even the Grinch would have to admit that the work of volunteers brings positive benefits to the people, programs, and services that rely on their assistance. Certainly, everyone who volunteers can take satisfaction in knowing they’re providing help where help is needed.
At the same time, volunteers gain advantages of a more practical nature. When you’re advocating for volunteerism, be sure to mention the pluses it offers to your friend or peer. Any volunteer activity can be a great addition to a job application, résumé, or application for a scholarship or fellowship. It can provide great, real-life experience that will be useful in the workplace. And, not to be overlooked, it’s a chance to meet people who could later become job references, potential employers, or friends.
With all of these benefits and your own enthusiasm, you’ll have a great case to inspire any student to want to join the volunteer community.
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