3 Ways to Recruit College Students for Spring Break Volunteering

Spring break is rapidly approaching. While I’d like to lie to you all and tell you that it still looks like an Elvis movie,

it looks a more like a scene from a movie starring Zach Galifianakis.

(Cue the horrible mental images of kids making poor life choices at 9 a.m. on a beach somewhere—sorry, parents. Take a moment to text your children.)

Now, for those nonprofits wanting to engage college kids looking for something with a bit more meaning, let’s talk about spring break volunteering. I know, you can practically hear the eye rolls coming from the college kids. However, volunteering over spring break can be a blast if done right. Many of the folks working in your organization likely have college kids, so you already have a great resource to reference when trying to get collegiate volunteers during the March recess. But if you’re looking from input from a genuine college senior, here it goes:

1. Make the Offer Soon

Unlike other parts of their lives, spring break gets planned down to the tee nice and early. So if your nonprofit wants to get in on a crop of volunteers for this year, start strategizing how you’ll reach out to this audience—might I recommend various forms of social media? Share a link preferably to a designated landing page about volunteering over spring break on several platforms soon—as in get the marketing team together tomorrow and figure out a posting schedule ASAP.

2. Cater to Their Social Habits

Despite their blossoming independence, college students like to travel in packs. They’re likely envisioning a warm, sandy break with a group of their closest friends. If nonprofit volunteering weeks are to stand a chance against their currently imagined break, make sure that they can volunteer in groups. Also, find tasks that they’ll be good at—perhaps they could brainstorm some great social media content for you for the next month, or help plan a marketing strategy that helps reach millennials. You could even get specific into their majors—for example, if you have some graphic designers or architecture students, you could have them work on an infographic for the week. Basically, don’t plan on them licking envelopes for the week. They’ll never come back.

3. Make it Meaningful

Piggybacking on my last point, make whatever job you do give them mean something to them (even if it’s office work). I realize that some nonprofits aren’t in a financial position to fly students to the international locations they help, which facilitate some obvious connections with your cause. Most alternative spring break companies such as B.A.D., United Planet, or United Way offer traveling work trips abroad that students pay for. (And your nonprofit could certainly set up a program that eventually becomes integrated to your nearby University’s lists of alternative spring break trips, as this is a guaranteed way to reach students.)

But if you’re not currently in a state where you can arrange international travel (or if your nonprofit deals with more local or community-based issues), consider the volunteering opportunities that you can offer that will leave a mark. You want these volunteers to feel something after working with your cause for a week. How can you include them on a deeper level to feel like they donated their time for a reason?

Any organizations out there with current spring break programs want to chime in? Shout out some of your top tips in the comments.


Kathryn Pauley

Kathryn is a regular contributor to the Nonprofit Hub. Soon to be college graduate, she enjoys helping nonprofits understand better how to reach the millennial demographic—cause we are living in a millennial world, and Kathryn's a millennial girl. With experience leading the largest student-run charity event on her campus, she looks forward to bringing her unique perspective to the Hub team every day.

February 10, 2015

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