When planning an event for a school, many organizers forget one of their most valuable resources, the kids. In many instances, the students may not be mature enough to take on a leadership role for the event, but finding a way to include them, without them feeling as if it is mandated, will spur excitement, as well as a sense of belonging and pride for the kids involved.
What type of jobs could students have? Consider how the students can help with the decorating or prep work. If you have an event where food will be passed or even served from tables, enlist “children volunteers” to help with the serving. Even a 5-year old is great at helping put bread baskets on the table… Yes, you will need to have a responsible adult monitoring these young volunteers, and it may seem much easier for adult to take over the job themselves, but with each exposure the children will become more confident and excited about volunteering.
Be organized and keep them busy. One common pitfall is that children are recruited to help with an event, but then are not given enough responsibilities or duties to keep them active. While the duration and skill level should reflect the age of the helper, it is important to remember that they consider their time valuable, just as an older volunteer would. Be prepared; have a list of what needs to be done and when. For younger children, the volunteer time maybe less than 20 minutes, but let them know that no matter how they have contributed, it is appreciated and has made a difference.
Rewards or competitions can help. You will encounter slackers or kids who are “too cool” to help, especially if your volunteer crowd includes middle schoolers. By assigning a specific task or providing an award, you can help keep these kids motivated. Consider having some type of treat in place, such as a pizza for all volunteers once they have finished their duties. For clean up, assign different pairs areas and the crew that gets done first and has the cleanest area gets a special ice cream treat. (You my even want to present the job as a contest, but actually have enough treats on hand so that you award ALL the hard workers.)
The more they are able to physically see the result of their input, the greater will be the pride in a job well done. Children volunteers will also draw their parents to an event, whether it is to simply accompany them or because they are proud of their child’s involvement. Once these young volunteers get started, you all be surprised how many volunteer next time the opportunity arises.