How to Involve Families as Volunteers
By Heather Jack

Heather Jack
Heather Jack
Planning a family volunteer project this year might help your organization with these common, recurrent challenges for nonprofits: lack of staff, lack of funding, and too much stress.

National Family Volunteer Day (Nov. 17th) marks the start of the holiday season when people are particularly inclined to give back. Developing a Family Volunteer Day activity will not only give agencies access to a strong, reliable volunteer base, but also will develop new fundraising prospects who may support additional programs and services year-round. Visible family volunteering day activities will also give you the chance to showcase some of the great work your organization does.

The following is a four-step guide that will help you develop a successful family volunteering day activity.

STEP 1: Planning

When planning a family volunteer project, think about the needs of your organization and those of the people you serve.
  • Which of your current programs involve activities that families (including children of different ages) could help with?

  • What are ways you could adapt your current programs to make them more family friendly?

  • What activities or events could you plan that would accommodate family volunteers and utilize their strengths, creativity, and enthusiasm?

STEP 2: Orientation

On the day of the event, conducting an orientation for new family volunteers helps keep them comfortable and provides them information about the organization’s purpose and structure. Consider including the following subjects for the orientation:
  • A description of your mission and how they are contributing;

  • A tour of the work area;

  • The names and responsibilities of other volunteers;

  • Where the volunteers can leave personal property;

  • Location of equipment and supplies the volunteer is authorized to use.

During the orientation of a family friendly volunteer day, it’s important to make it clear that parents are responsible for supervising and helping their own children.

STEP 3: Supervision

The most effective supervisory technique is to allow family members to focus on the same assignment, truly volunteering as a unit. Here are some tips for supervising family volunteers:
  • Help the family to organize their assignment so that all members are doing tasks they enjoy;

  • Find ways to recognize each individual for his or her contribution as well as thanking the family as a unit.

STEP 4: Recognition

At the close of a family volunteer day, recognizing the contributions of family volunteers is very important. It can provide visibility for your program and helps strengthen positive group identity among the families participating. Here are some ideas:
  • Distribute certificates or flowers to volunteers;

  • Make buttons or T-shirts to thank volunteers;

  • To highlight the accomplishments of your volunteers, invite local journalists to develop feature stories that salute them.

By using this guide and planning an activity for National Family Volunteer Day, you’ll be able to strengthen your volunteer base and develop new sources of funding. Sometimes working with family volunteers requires flexibility and a willingness to think outside the regular volunteer box. Give it a try this year #147; you will benefit in ways you never thought possible.

Heather Jack is the president of The Volunteer Family, which serves as a source of volunteer opportunities for families, schools, faith based organizations, and corporations. Call (508) 405-2220 or email for more information about their upcoming Volunteer-a-thon.