By Norah O’Donnell, YPT Community Volunteer Manager
As YPT’s Community Volunteer Manager, I always strive to find ways to engage more deeply with young people through our volunteer program. As a theatre FOR young audiences we are very well suited to cater our volunteer program to high school-aged students. But for all that we do, we always ask ourselves how we can do better. How can we inspire students to go beyond the 40 hours of required community service?
To find out how we might improve our work with youth volunteers, I reached out to Volunteer Toronto’s Youth Audit Program. Their team of students (ages 14-18) advises organizations on this exact question. Here is what the Youth Auditors (Maheen, Seher and Helen) reported, after investigating the following areas of our volunteer program.
Best Aspect: Volunteers are given the opportunity to volunteer within a wide variety of areas and YPT accommodates individual’s interests and experiences.
Area for Improvement: Provide greater opportunity for short-term volunteers and conduct separate recruitment for those positions, rather than pulling from existing volunteer pool.
Promotions and Advertising
Best Aspect: YPT has a solid communication system with volunteers and good use of social media for advertising roles.
Areas for Improvement: Create an informational, less verbose, and more graphically-aesthetic posting. Promote volunteer opportunities to a larger network for distribution among arts-specialized high schools.
Selection and Training
Best Aspect: Youth are provided with the proper tools, training and mentors to succeed at their tasks while at the organization.
Area for Improvement: Important to ensure that the application process is not too extensive, as that will turn away potential volunteers.
Best Aspect: YPT does an excellent job in communicating with their volunteers. The survey system for providing feedback is simple and accessible.
Area for Improvement: It may be beneficial to create more spaces for youth to interact with one another (either in person or online). Consider setting up opportunities for all volunteers to come together and chat, or create a network for youth volunteers on social media so they can share information less formally.
Benefits and Perks
Best Aspect: YPT is clearly paving the way in this field. They create lovely interactions and relationship-building between staff, volunteers and the general public. YPT truly sounds like a positive and welcoming environment.
Area for Improvement: Consider the long-term results and advantages that come with improving the system to make it the absolute best it can be; it is important to consider facilitating a program that fosters growth along every step of the journey. Suggestions include the opportunity to further engage avid theatre-goers by creating a “membership/perks” pass. Offer mentorship sessions with the Volunteer Manager or Artist Educators to answer any basic questions specific to volunteers’ personal direction or interests.
To find out how the Youth Audit Program may benefit your organization, click here.