Children and Teens

About anyone under the age of 18 doing volunteer service. For children volunteering with family members; see Families and Multi-Generational Volunteering; for young adults over age 18, see Millennials; for school-based volunteering, see Students in Service.

The Art of Crazy Paving: Volunteering for Enhanced Employability

This is a summary of the contents of a book from Student Volunteering UK (2001) that is no longer available online.

Barriers to Preventing Abuse, John Patterson with Charles Tremper and Pam Rypkema, Nonprofit Risk Management Center.
Board Service by Young People, Jenny Sazama and Karen S. Young, pp.19-20, Youth on Board
Books on Altruism and Volunteerism for Children or Young Adults, Georgean C. Johnson-Coffey and Tonya Cross
Citizenship, Barbara A. Lewis, What Do You Stand For?, Free Spirit Press
A Little Extra, Marianne Larned Starbucks, The Leader's Guide to Stone Soup for the World, p. 37, Stone Soup Foundation
Making the Case for Youth Participation, Loring Leifer and Michael McLarney, Younger Voices, Stronger Choices: Promise Project's Guide to Forming Youth/Adult Partnerships, pp. 4-5, YMCA of Greater Kansas City
Myths and Facts about Partnerships Between Adults and Youth, Deborah Fisher, p. 10, Search Institute
Palmetto Middle School mentoring program encourage students to become ‘distinguished gentlemen’, Naeem Mcfadden Star & Enterprise

Innovative project targeting young African-American males.

Points of Entry, Recruiting College Students: A Guide for Volunteer Recruitment and Management, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
Preparing Your Organization, Susan J. Ellis, Anne Weisbord, and Katherine H. Noyes, pp. 25-6, Energize Inc.
Putting Ideas into Action, Search Institute, p.37, Search Institute
Why Young People Should Be Decision Makers, Jenny Sazama and Karen S. Young, pp. 4-6, Youth on Board
Youth Can Change the World, Mosaic Youth Center with Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, pp. 7-10, Search Institute
A guide from UK's leading services for people with disabilities, Leonard Chesire and Scope. , 2006, pp. 72
Report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. , 2006
Report on survey results of teenagers and implications for agencies , 2012, pp. 37
First published in 1968, Arthur Gillette's comprehensive history shows how service has affected volunteers and the peoples with whom they work, and draws guidelines for the future of international voluntary work. , 1968
Compiled and Edited by Michael True of Messiah College and produced by the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania. Practical and welcoming guide by a college internship director to help nonprofits and businesses establish effective internships for students. Nice checklists. , 2004, pp. 26

Produced the the US Peace Corps to help members develop service-learning projects in developing countries. (V2 = V2) 

, 2009, pp. 65
2003 study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) , 2003
Report from CIRCLE, discussiing the finding that non-college-educated youth volunteer less than those with college. , 2009
by Kathryn Montgomery, Barbara Gottlieb-Robles, and Gary O. Larson, a report from American University's Center for Social Media about how an online youth civic culture, largely unnoticed by the general public, has taken root on the Internet and is fostering Generation Y's participation in U.S. politics and community affairs , 2004, pp. 158
Association for Teaching Citizenship

Set of 4 lesson plans specifically on volunteering. The ACT site has many other resources as well.


Research and information on community participation by youth from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Free fact sheets, tools for practice, and more.

Devoted entirely to volunteering by teenagers. Many resources and reports. Blog

All about young people (teens and 20-somethings) and social change.


A not-for-profit hunger relief program focusing on family service to others.See the newsletter section for examples of multi-generational efforts.

Generation We

Site devoted to explaining the perspective of Millennials and mobilizing them to service.

generationOn Blog

Features great youth volunteer stories and ways to involve families in volunteering, from Points of Light.


#iwill is a national campaign in the UK that aims to make social action part of life for as many 10 to 20 year-olds as possible by the year 2020. Through collaboration and partnership it is spreading the word about the benefits of youth social action, working to embed it in the journey of young people and creating fresh opportunities for the participation. Is also supported by Student Volunteering Week.

Learning to Give

"Educates youth about philanthropy, the civil society sector, and the importance of giving their time, talent and treasure for the common good." Provides a whole range of lesson plans and teaching ideas for all age groups.

National, non-partisan US organization dedicated to engaging young adults in public policymaking and moving their issues and concerns to the forefront of policy debates.

National Association of Youth Courts

Publish resources for youth and teen courts, help organizations start new youth courts, and provide training for youth and adult volunteers.

Russell Commission

2004 UK government-sponsored consultation into youth action and engagement. Site offers survey tools and will report findings.

SALTO Training Toolbox

Large number of group training exercises on all aspects of diversity and youth action from Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities within the European YOUTH programme.

Taking It Global

International organization, "led by youth, empowered by technology." TIG brings together young people in more than 200 countries within international networks to collaborate on concrete projects addressing global problems and creating positive change.

Urban Survival Project

The project's goal is to create a virtual volunteering website that is accessed through social networks like Facebook to bolster the support system for inner-city kids by solving the problems of commitment, localization and physicality that act as barriers to volunteering. Centered on a blog.

Volunteering and the Australian Curriculum

By Volunteering ACT on behalf of Volunteering Australia. A a set of lessons and units of work that can be used by teachers in Foundation-Year 10 classrooms across Australia (and anywhere).

Youth Helping America Series

In collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau and Independent Sector, the Corporation for National and Community Service in early 2005 conducted the Youth Volunteering and Civic Engagement Survey, the first major national study of volunteering by teenagers in more than a decade. This site provides several free reports, including a 2007 update.

Youth in Philanthropy - Association of Fundraising Professionals

This section of AFP’s website is devoted to efforts to encourage young people to become actively involved in philanthropy and fundraising.  

Youth Justice Board (UK)

Practical tips on volunteers mentoring youth in the justice system.

Youth on Board

Prepares youth to be leaders and decision makers in their communities and strengthens relationships between youth and adults. Particularly advocates involving young people on nonprofit boards of directors.

Youth Service America Blog

Youth Service America shares current news, information, and grant opportunities from the service-learning and youth service fields, including stories of youth successful in helping their communities.

Youth Worker

Youth ministry resources, lessons and group games. Articles for and by youth in faith-based settings, with emphasis on topics related to volunteering, organizational relationships, and leadership.

Zoom into Action!

Site accompanying the PBS children's television series Zoom. Its "Action" section has many examples of volunteering by kids and families, plus how-to hints for adults and educators. Also provides a free guide to family volunteering to download at:

If it's on Sesame Street, it has to appeal, right?

These films present volunteer film work of 17 volunteers from the organisation Domka.

Developing Volunteer Work for Children
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Even children under age 14 can be great volunteers, but much depends on your ability to design the right assignments for them. Experiment to find what works best in your setting. Here are some general guidelines, excerpted and adapted from our book, Children as Volunteers: Preparing for Community Service (Ellis, Weisbord, and Noyes, 2003):

  • Beware of the myth that children will do anything "because they're young." The best jobs are ones children want to do.
  • Avoid stereotyping. Assign work based on the interests of each child, rather than on some preconceived notions such as "boys like to work with their hands" or "girls don't like to get dirty."
  • Children often have fewer prejudices than adults. Use this open-mindedness to create cross-cultural, intergenerational, or interracial assignments. Though initially children may need preparation in facing a new situation (seeing a person in a wheelchair, hearing someone speak with an accent), they overcome such superficial barriers more quickly than adults.
  • On the other hand, children adopt the prejudices they hear expressed at home and may amaze you with their "opinions" on a variety of subjects. Therefore, do not assume open-mindedness and provide training before making a potentially embarrassing assignment. Children say what's on their minds.
  • In designing roles, identify whether literacy is needed to accomplish goals and, if so, what reading level is required. This is an important clue to which child can do the job.
  • Children need to see immediate results, even on a small scale. Define assignments as a series of short-term tasks with identifiable goals or projects. This can be as simple as saying "today your job is to play checkers with Mr. Jones," or "please pick up the litter in this area." One of the most effective techniques to keep children motivated is to give them a sense of accomplishment.
  • Plan for some variety within each assignment. This will allow you to accommodate the physical, mental and emotional levels of different children. Offering assorted activities also keeps youngsters from getting bored and lets them choose what they really feel like doing at any given time. Attention span will vary with each child's age and maturity (and the nature of the task) -- another reason for offering options.

Write a position description for every assignment, even if the task is very simple or will be done by children who cannot read (you can explain it orally). Keep it short and informal, but present it seriously.  When developing position descriptions for adult/child teams, do not fall into the trap of writing a single description aimed at the adult. The child needs her/his own version. This is your first chance to demonstrate your expectation that the child will be a fully-contributing partner in the work.

Flexible Volunteering
Submitted by Janica Fisher, Humanity in Practice , Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Our company, Humanity In Practice, has designed a volunteer program for children under 12.  HIPkids,, is a unique way for school children, Guide/Scout groups and families to make a difference from anywhere.  This program runs ten months a year and comes to the volunteer in the form of a fun project that they can do in their own time which helps the agency!  We promote these projects on a colored poster given to each coordinator so they can choose which projects they wish to do.  For example, an agency we just supported has an annual fundraising gala that requires a lot of time and effort from the staff.  One of the tasks the staff needs to do is to create table centerpieces each year to reflect the theme.  This year, HIPkids made the table centerpieces which will be proudly sitting at the tables and throughout the gala.  The children made a difference by helping the agency with a time consuming task so that the staff could focus on other things!

Our program is popular because it is simple and flexible—and, since starting this 4 years ago, we have had youth and senior groups ask us to become HIPkids! The agencies enjoy this program too as it costs nothing to participate and there are no risk management issues, recruiting, training or supervision involved!

Special Considerations in Engaging Students as Volunteers
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Every volunteer program welcomes students of all ages as volunteers and therefore we know that all students are not alike in their expectations and needs. Apart from the obvious differences in ages ranging from primary school through university graduate school, we can have several categories of students:

  • Assigned by a teacher to do some sort of fieldwork to apply classroom learning to the real world. This type of curriculum-based volunteering is most often called "service-learning" as an activity and, especially at the university and graduate levels, often framed as an "internship."
  • Participating in volunteering through an extra-curricular activity or group, such as a youth club, a fraternity or sorority, or a group from a faith community.
  • Independent volunteering simply because the young person is interested in the cause or the organization, often connected to career exploration.
  • Meeting a requirement of graduation, where a certain number of hours of service in a community agency is mandated.

The important thing to remember is that a student might move from one category to another at different times of the school year. There's lots of evidence that if a student has a great school-based volunteering experience, she or he will remain with your organization independently for a long time after the official requirement ends.

The focus of this monthly tip is considering some of the questions that need to be clarified whenever a student applies to become a volunteer - questions that are not applicable to adults. See if the following is helpful as a checklist to cover during a screening interview.

  • Are you seeking volunteer work solely on your own or as part of an academic or other requirement?
  • Is there a minimum number of hours of service or other responsibility that you must complete? Are you prepared to give more time, if necessary? When is your official placement over?
  • To whom must you report your experiences, submit a paper, etc.? When or how often?
    • Will this faculty member or group leader be visiting you on site? By appointment or unannounced?
    • What role is the organization expected to play in working with this supervisor or advisor?
    • Will we be asked to evaluate or grade you at the end of the term?
  • Are you hoping to do or learn something through your volunteering here that will allow you to explore a possible future career?
  • If fulfilling a requirement: Why are you choosing to complete your required service here? How do you feel about this mandate? Are you prepared to be enthusiastic and committed to providing genuine service here, regardless of why you originally became a "volunteer"?
  • If the student is under age 18: Do your parents know that you are applying to be a volunteer? Do we need to get them to sign a parental permission form?
  • Is the address on the application form your permanent address or where you live during the school year? Please provide us with both.
  • Will you need to change your volunteer work schedule during exams or school breaks?
  • None of these interview questions should come as a surprise to Update readers, but each represents an important discussion topic. Getting clear answers with specific details will lead to greater success for both the student and the agency.
"They're Always Watching"
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

I love Carol Weisman's book, Raising Charitable Children. And it always springs to mind during the December shopping frenzy. What follows is an excerpt of the Conclusion to the book, entitled "They're Always Watching." Thanks, Carol, for letting me share it here.

Whether we're conscious of it or not, we all have a philosophy of giving. Do you give money to panhandlers on the street? Always, never, sometimes? Gloria Steinem, the great feminist activist, has said that she always gives money to homeless women on the street. Her mother had schizophrenia, and she believes that, had circumstances been different, her mother could have very easily wound up on the street like them.

My older son, Teddy, always gives money to Hare Krishnas when he passes them on the street. When he was backpacking through Europe a few years ago, he was without funds for a couple days while waiting for a check to clear. The Hare Krishnas in Amsterdam fed him a meal while he was down and out - something he will never forget.

I have a client who belongs to Alcoholics Anonymous; he never gives to the homeless. He believes that doing so is just enabling the drunks to get drunker. He does, however, donate directly to homeless shelters.

Let's say you are the type of person who does not believe in giving money to people on the street. You probably have a very good reason why you choose not to. But when you're out with your child and he or she sees you walking past a homeless person without stopping to help, all your child sees is that you just ignored a person in need.

This is what I call a "teachable moment," and in order to make it into a learning opportunity, the first thing that you should do is stop. Take a few minutes and find a place to sit down. Get a cup of hot chocolate with your child if you can, and say to him or her, "I always/never/sometimes give to people on the street because..." Explain your philosophy. And remind your child that someday he or she will have the opportunity to develop his or her own philosophy of giving.

You may also want to talk to your child about workplace giving, to which a child is rarely privy. When we use payroll deduction at work to give to the United Way or the Combined Health Appeal or the Women's Fund-and even when we write out checks to these and other groups while paying the bills at home-our children have no idea that we are involved in supporting our community. But they will take notice when there is a charity telethon on TV and Mom and Dad aren't calling in to make pledges. Again, take time to explain when and how you give, and why you choose to give to certain charities over others.

As I've said throughout this book, giving money is terrific, but the gift of time is equally important. After my kids' former babysitter, Liz, retired, I used to have lunch with her once a year. One year, after Liz's husband went into a nursing home, the next-door neighbor began mowing her lawn for her. She tried time and again to pay him, but he absolutely refused. Liz's husband, Johnny, had always lent this neighbor tools and helped him out whenever he needed it.

One day Liz looked out the window and saw her neighbor's son mowing her lawn. She went outside and asked, "Where is your dad?" The son replied, "He had a heart attack. He's in the hospital, but I think he's going to be OK." Liz said, "Wait right here, I want to pay you." The 14-year-old replied, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't take your money. That's not how we do things."

Liz was floored by this boy's honorable stance. She put on her hat, went to the store, and picked up the ingredients to make his family a [dinner]... This young man had taken over where his father had left off. This young man, who had seen his father voluntarily mow his elderly neighbor's lawn, knew that following in his father's footsteps was the right thing to do.

What more could a parent ask?

The above is quoted with permission from Raising Charitable Children by Carol Weisman (St. Louis, F.E. Robbins & Sons Press, © 2006), pp. 107-10. Hard cover copies of the book are available at .

Working with Chlidren

One on one with children
Submitted by Debra Lynne, The Children's Aid Society , New York, New York, USA

Volunteers who work one-to-one with children want to have an impact on the child's life and usually have very high hopes and expectations of themselves. Therefore it is important for the supervisor to clearly outline what the role is and what it is not. This includes outlining the boundaries of the relationship, which are sometimes quite "soft" and hard to define. A tutor's job is easier to define than a mentor's. The supervisor also has to be clear about the support s/he will provide so that the volunteer knows what to expect from the supervisor.

Supervisors need to be clear about the do's and don'ts. Boundaries are healthy and necessary for many reasons, among them liability and risk management. Supervisors need to articulate the needs of the client and identify how the volunteer can help. Because volunteering with children can be both rewarding and frustrating the good supervisor needs to be a cheerleader. The volunteers have high expectations of themselves and will look for signs of progress, which they may not necessarily see. The supervisor must continuously encourage and support, while also providing gentle and sometimes direct guidance.

Supervisors of volunteers in one-to-one relationships also need to ask the volunteer, "How are things going and how can I help?" Often volunteers don't ask for help because they don't know what to ask for. Supervisors also need to help the volunteer identify what approaches are working in order to provide encouragement. It is important to say things like, "I have noticed an improvement in Maria's self-confidence. You are really making an impact."

Supervisors also need to be sensitive to volunteers' frustrations and boost their morale with words like, "I know it's hard to keep Joe's attention, but you are doing a great job. Here are a few other ways to...." Supervising one-to-one volunteers is high maintenance work. The volunteers are providing a service that the family and the school cannot provide. If your agency has put a lot of time and effort into screening and training the volunteers, then it is only logical to also put time and effort into nurturing and supporting them. A good supervisor will make volunteers feel welcome, appreciated, supported by boundaries and guidance.