BGCA’s Kevina Fullwood is back with ideas for teen recruitment! We’ll be highlighting tween and teen initiatives here on the ClubX Blog as part of Total Teen Takeover, BGCA’s multi-year strategy to support your work in Clubs.
Did you know that providing regular community service opportunities for teens is a great way to recruit and engage them in your program? Community service not only supports teens in earning scholarships, but also helps them graduate, get accepted into college, and become stewards of their communities. This post will provide five steps to recruit and engage teens through community service opportunities.
First, you will want to determine what types of service projects would be most engaging and meaningful to your teens. One way is to conduct a survey of your current teens and reach out to the guidance counselors of your local high schools to gauge the interest of their students as well. The survey should ask teens about their availability, their career goals, hobbies and interests. You could also do this in a focus group setting. Asking teens what they want to do is an important first step in ensuring that your service projects are inclusive and impactful.
Now that we know what teens are interested in doing, it’s time to find out who you can partner with to make their plans a reality. Partnering with local businesses and community organizations makes for diverse service activities. Examples of service activities includes clean up events at local parks, assisting at shelters and animal hospitals, and serving in food kitchens or food banks. Be mindful that community service doesn’t always have to look like clean up – also consider some of these opportunities:
- Administrative tasks where teens can practice career-specific skills such organizing files and data input, and answering phones.
- Creating content for local nonprofits – teens who are good with film or editing can help a local organization with creating content for an initiative that they have coming up.
- Plan a local race or marathon – Check out how Kings Bay Teen Center supported a local 5k/10K race.
- Consider volunteer opportunities at other local community serving organizations, i.e. shelters, food banks, clinics, etc. These organizations often have limited staff and could use the extra help. Partnering with other organizations in this way not only supports other community-serving initiatives, it introduces teens to other service areas and develops their hard skills and workforce experience.
- Hosting activities for youth at hospitals and shelters. It is a unique opportunity to be a Boys & Girls Club member and have access to programs that promote personal growth and development. Think about some of your activities that can you can bring to youth at shelters and how your teens can lead them.
- In-Club service such as helping younger youth with homework or beautifying your Club in ways like cleaning behind those stinky bleachers, thoroughly cleaning furniture, applying wall paper or a fresh coat of paint.
- Assembling premade packages for distribution to families or other organizations. These could include self-care kits to take to shelters, winter essentials to take to community warming centers, or even back to school backpacks for your Club and local schools.
Once you’ve identified your community service opportunities, make a calendar. This calendar will bring consistency to community service opportunities and help teens schedule their time for participation and plan ahead. You can stick to working with one partner per month (i.e. every Saturday out of the month) or you can work with multiple partners monthly. For example, teens help at the call center on the third Saturday of every month and help stock the shelves at the food pantry for the first Saturday of every month. Check out the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanton Teen Calendar for one idea on how you could set up a schedule. Weekends often work well for teens because of their busy schedules, but can be tricky for staff. Get creative with your schedule, for example closing the Teen Center on Mondays to ensure staff can have a two-day weekend.
Now that your Teen Club Calendar is ready, let’s look at a few ways to get the word out! You can post the calendars throughout your Club or youth center, on digital platforms, and in teen communications. You can also share them in Club newsletters and with guidance counselors at local high schools. Encourage participating teens to invite their friends to join in on the fun! One important note: make sure teens know that they need to apply to be members to participate in your regular community service events. This is important for safety, especially during travel. It will also help you grow your program and expand your impact. If your organization charges membership fees, consider making it free or very low cost for teens. Consider using Canva for staff- or even better for teens- to create eye-catching marketing.
Finally, assist your teen volunteers in tracking their hours and signing off on any necessary documents for school. This will allow the teens to receive official recognition for their service to the community and use their experience for scholarships or college applications. We suggest placing the tracking and sign-off process on the organization letterhead, as it will add a sense of formality to the process and make it feel more official.
It’s important to ensure that teens and tweens have fun and enjoyable experiences even when engaging in community service activities. One way to do this is by involving them in decision-making and leadership roles during these activities. This can include photo and video documenting and assigning roles. By capturing these moments through photos and videos, you can share and celebrate the positive impact that they are making in their community via social media or Club websites, in turn encouraging more teens to join in.
For more information on creating a solid community service plans check out the Teens Take the Lead Service Learning Guide on BGCA.net.