More than 50 per cent of Canadian youth volunteer – that’s more than any other age group. Young Canadians play a vital role in building healthy and resilient communities, and it’s important to engage them effectively.

A key component of volunteer engagement is recognition. This step is essential for all ages, with most volunteers wanting to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference.

Here are five tips to effectively recognize your youth volunteers:

(1) Do it often

Volunteer recognition should be an ongoing aspect of your relationship with your volunteers. While National Volunteer Week can be a great opportunity to formally highlight the impact volunteers have on the community, most volunteers want to be thanked on an ongoing, informal basis. Build acknowledgement strategies into your volunteer management practices so that volunteers feel seen and appreciated during each shift.

(2) Find out what they want

One size does not fit all with youth volunteers. Get to know each volunteer as an individual and find out what motivates them so you can customize your recognition efforts. This can start during the recruitment process, when you can learn what youth are looking for from their volunteer experience. Have youth complete a questionnaire of their motivations and preferences during the onboarding process so you can tailor your recognition activities throughout their involvement.

(3) Support their goals

Volunteering can be an opportunity to network and improve skills; so many youth volunteer to support their search for employment and to begin developing a career. Here are some recognition ideas that support these goals:

  • Write a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference
  • Give constructive feedback and copies of portfolio-worthy work
  • Provide training and certification
  • Assign tasks that develop skills
  • Offer networking opportunities

(4) Help youth grow

Offering the type of role a volunteer is looking for is a type of recognition. Avoid only assigning menial tasks to youth. Once they’ve proven themselves, give your youth volunteers some responsibility to show you appreciate their efforts and respect their contributions.

(5) Tell them how they make a difference

Most volunteers want to know the impact of their efforts. Acknowledge the contributions of your youth volunteers and tell them the impact their work has had on your organization’s mission and in the community. You can also demonstrate the broader purpose of their efforts by linking their efforts to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to improve social, economic and environmental conditions around the world by 2030.

Volunteering should be a mutually beneficial relationship that meets the needs of both your organization and the youth who give their time to support your mission. Volunteer recognition acknowledges the needs and motivations of your volunteers, while helping forge strong, sustainable relationships that will encourage youth to keep volunteering.

Learn more about youth volunteer recognition and other aspects of effective volunteer engagement, from recruitment to orientation and all the steps of volunteer involvement, on the Pan-Canadian Youth Opportunities Platform.