Blog | How to recruit student volunteers
Volunteers' Week is an opportunity for us to engage people of all ages and encourage them to volunteer at Scouts.
It’s estimated that 50,000 students volunteer during their time at university, so here are our 10 tips for recruiting them to work with you and your Scouts.
1. Recruit right
When recruiting student volunteers the Freshers’ Fair seems an obvious starting point. However, this is a time when students are bombarded with opportunities so consider contacting students via a relevant university group instead. Student community action groups and individual clubs and societies can spread the word about the flexible opportunities you have on offer.
Ask the local Students’ Union for a list of societies. Also look at talking directly to students on relevant courses – their CVs could be improved as a result of volunteering.
2. Market yourself
If Freshers’ Week remains your strongest option, there are a few aspects to consider. Leafleting has a place at such events and a follow-up call or email to anyone interested should follow swiftly, so budget time for that. Also make sure you have plenty of sign-up sheets so that you can gather details from as many potential volunteers as possible. Any design needs to be eye-catching so use the Print Centre for templates to help you create your posters.
3. Use freebies
Freebies are very popular during Freshers’ Fairs, so consider what you’ll offer: frisbees, T-shirts, calendars and postcards will help you draw in students for a chat throughout the day. You could even include something interactive like a ‘guess the number of sweets in the jar’ competition.
4. Get the right kind of student
Think about the kind of students you want to recruit. First years have more spare time but final year students may know the area better and have a realistic idea of how much time they can commit. Some students will have more experience than others so think about your leadership team and who is best placed to support them. Consider the kinds of opportunities to offer; you might partner with a local university or invite individual students to come in and help out on a one-off basis.
5. Be flexible
The key to successfully recruiting students is flexibility. Quite often, owing to the structure of the academic year, long-term roles aren’t suitable for students. Short term or one-off projects may be more appealing and introduce students to the idea of making a longer-term commitment to volunteering. It’s also important that you discover the skills that students haven’t told you about.
You may find that your new volunteers are perfectly suited to get your social media pages up and running, or design promotional materials for events that your group is running. Always have a host of opportunities on offer and be open to new ones. Some examples of typical projects, which suit students, include one-offs like local research, working as service crews at local events or running programme activities based around their degree subjects.
6. What are their aims?
When recruiting students think about how to help them get the most out of the experience. Often, students volunteer to enhance their CVs, meet people with shared interests or simply to have fun. In addition they may not be looking for a long-term, regular volunteering arrangement. Try to find all this out.
7. Tailor the induction
It’s crucial that volunteers have a comprehensive induction that takes into account their Scouting knowledge. Create a checklist of all the things they need to cover and the training they need, and arrange for them to shadow another volunteer so they can see how much fun is to be had. Also think about the people students will need to build relationships with, and consider finding a volunteer who started as a student who would be willing to share their experience.
8. Be clear about your expectations (and meet theirs)
Make sure both you and your volunteers are clear on your agreed commitments to each other. Written clarification will make life a lot easier once you’re up and running. Find out what your students are interested in learning; some may want to know all about Scouting, whereas others might be looking for a general introduction to non-formal learning or working with children and young people. Either way, help them find their place in Scouting.
Also consider what students might find frustrating, so you can avoid it. Pitfalls include (but are not limited to) routine office work (if the requirement to do so was not made clear from the outset), being denied training opportunities, and lack of support. Regular and constructive feedback is good and helps to keep communication lines open.
9. Retain, retain, retain!
Get your volunteers started quickly and always ensure you are giving them a helping hand. As well as regular feedback, take the time to talk to them about the importance of what they’re doing. Food and drink is a good way to ensure students stay motivated, and will also give you the chance to debrief them after events, especially when the volunteers are new. So long as volunteering feels like more of an event than staying at home, you’re on the right track.
10. Support your Explorers
If one of your Explorers leaves for university, think about starting an exchange programme with other Counties, Districts or Groups to effectively swap volunteers. Stay in touch with former Explorers – an email or newsletter once a term can encourage people to come back to volunteer when they can. Student volunteers bring a whole host of new ideas and enthusiasm and opportunities to the role. Whatever they end up doing you’re sure to find yourself with a welcome and vibrant source of support.
You can still take part in Scouting at University. If you are aged 18-25 you are automatically a member of the UK Scout Network. Find out more and get involved!
Head to Scout Shops to pick up the goodies you’ll need to give away at Freshers’ Fair.
SSAGO which is the Student Scout and Guide Association are present in loads of UK universities and could be a great way for local Scout Groups to connect with universities local to them. https://www.ssago.org/