How to run a youth volunteering action (PART I)

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Key Principles

  • Volunteering is a “Give and Take”: on one hand, you give your time, your skills and on other hands, you also learn, you become a better person (trust me it is true!!)
  • Volunteering can take many different forms and shapes. It up to the local circumstances, local realities and level of commitment of the leaders deciding the way to design and implement a volunteering action
  • Volunteering should be considered as a learning platform: you learn new skills while you volunteer but if you lead the effort, much more can be learned: your confidence will be boosted and you will learn how to manage tasks and responsibilities.
  • Forget about definitions: you decide how to roll it out though there are some key tenants:

-it is done to help someone outside your family or to help a particular cause

-it is done without any concern for financial motivation though volunteers might receive monetary reimbursement for the costs occurred during their volunteering/service. In case of full time volunteering/service, a small stipend could be provided though these should never become the primary reason for volunteering

-it is done without thinking about your career though through volunteerism the person can learn quite a lot and this can be a “plus” in her/his professional curriculum

-the volunteering experience should be enjoyable

Planning a volunteering initiative

  • Volunteering seems easy but it requires a good dose of preparation and a good level of skills that the leader can develop ( learning by doing)
  • You do not know everything, you need support and help from others.
  • Sketch out your idea in a very simple, short way: one page only. In doing this try to think the following:

-why, what is the problem?

-who is doing what (mapping what others are doing)?

-ask yourself: can my idea make a tiny difference?

-who do I need on board? Individuals, institutions (school, local councils/counties/VDCs/Wards), local NGOs

  • Start sharing your one page IDEA paper with some friends, your teachers and even with your family members. Get their feedbacks; be open to criticisms and negative opinions: these can always improve your concept. Maybe you need to review the way you present it because the case or reason for your initiative is not enough compelling or clear
  • Put all the feedbacks together and ask yourself the following:

Is it worthy to continue? Does what I want to do make sense to others?

If the answer is yes, move ahead. If you realize that there are some problems with your idea, you need to think it again thoroughly and you need to do some more research/studies. Ask for more help from those who offered negative feedbacks.

  • Build a small group

Here you can start with your friends or cousins, friends of your sisters and brothers. You need to have them on board. Without them, it is very difficult to carry out any initiative.

Now you do not need a huge group, just few trusted persons who will be as committed as you. Even two or three persons can make kick start the process

Be sure that you “invest” in this small group: they need to learn from you, they need to learn sharing the same passion and commitment for the issue/problem you want to address. How to do that:

  • Collect some materials/info ( it can also be a movie, a documentary, a You Tube posting)
  • Ultimately you need to excite them: do not make the meetings too boring, use some good songs to create the right environment, mucus must be something fun, something energetic.
  • Try to understand them well: what they like, what they are good at
  • At the end, get their commitments ( you can do in different ways, you do not need to be necessarily very formal, do not forget that you are among friends, it needs to be fun, you need to take it easy with yourself)
  • Assign responsibilities: Discuss with them what they would like to do (assigning them tasks and responsibilities: this should not be top down, do not forget you are not their BOSS!!, see what they would like to do…
  • Train them: you need make sure that all persons on board are well equipped (skilled, knowledge) to carry out the volunteering action


  • Get a Mentor on Board

-Have a mentor, a guidance can really make the difference. Even managers oftentimes have senior mentors that help for guidance. The mentor could be your teacher, your uncle, father, mother or a senior students or someone working for some charities/NGOs.

-You must trust your mentor

-S/he needs somehow be knowledgeable or at least interested to what you are doing

-S/he needs to give you adequate time (do not exaggerate in your demands too as all mentors have a busy life)

  • Visibility and Marketing

While you initiate a volunteering action, you should not think too much about marketing and visibility. Your primarily focus and concern is the impact or the change you want to create. But at the same time you need also people, local institution to know what you are doing.

Do not be too overambitious, here some ideas:

- set up a twitter and face book account and try to have as many “likes” as you can ( your project can also thrive without this)

-write a letter to your local council/administration explaining what you are doing

-try to get in touch with local journalists. They might offer you the “keys’ to get visibility on TVs and newspapers

-Prepare a list of important persons (politicians, journalists, activists, family friends). Every time you accomplish something, you can write them a mail. You can also make a formal newsletter. Do not send too many, they will lose their interest

-Invite a local hero: you can identify a senior student or someone “famous” who lives where you want to organize your project and make her or him a sort of “Ambassador”. You can explain why you need his and her help. Do not ask too much in terms of commitment



Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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