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3 Secrets to Getting the Kids to Want to Volunteer

Do your pint-sized helpers need a bribe boost to wake up early on the weekends, skip the cartoons or to step away from the devices? Whether it's the promise of a donut, an afternoon binging Disney+ or just a little old fashioned poking and prodding, we often have one, two or if we're lucky, all three incentive-needing volunteers under our roof.


Do we expect our kids at ages 8, 11 and 13 to understand all the ways volunteering is good for them? We can barely get them to comprehend why making their beds is a good habit let alone how giving back will give their brains a positive dopamine hit!



Why It's Okay to Incentivize Volunteering

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Our kids don't just wake up one day as amazingly kind, compassionate and empathetic beings. These are seeds that must be planted and continually nurtured. And the easiest way to ensure you're crafting a kind, decent small human is to drag encourage them to attend a volunteer project. Because the truth is we need more people who will see a need, work to solve it and put more good into the world. And so yes, this may require a stop through the drive-through afterwards.


So how can you incentivize engage your family in volunteering bright and early on a weekend morning?


1. Tap into what interests your family the most.


Does your family enjoy spending time outdoors, or is the luxury of A/C the only way you can get them to leave the house? Do the kids absolutely go nuts over sweet puppy dog faces and purring kittens, or do they prefer to interact with things that can talk? Is your familial crew creative and crafty, or do they prefer to sort, organize and assemble?


Gather the crew together and make a compassion plan. Tap into what motivates each member and what will inspire them to get up and give back. And knowing it's only the rare family that can agree on everything, come up with a short list of causes to explore and give back opportunities to try. Because a happy family is one where maybe two-thirds of the members get their [volunteering] needs satisfied.


2. Turn volunteering into an excuse for a playdate.


Once you know what causes and community concerns your family cares most about, turn volunteering into the ultimate playdate! Like most things in life, having a friend in tow adds an element of enjoyment and makes giving back a time to catch up and reconnect. Whether it’s playing board games at a local nursing home or assembling peanut butter sandwiches, the community impact can be doubled and tripled when your volunteer crew is made of many. And isn't the promise of bringing a friend along the bestest of bribes motivators?!


3. Make it more about the project itself.


Whether your 5 or 55, when we understand who they are helping and why, it deepens the impact. It turns any old volunteering project into a feel-good trifecta of mind-heart-hands. Depending on what project your family decides to engage in, you may not always have direct contact with the beneficiaries of your volunteer work. However, with a little pre-project education, your family can still make a connection between their volunteering and the positive impact it will have on someone else’s life.


The best conversations happen when everyone is trapped in the car together. Three super simple questions to kickstart a great give-back conversation include:

  • What the volunteer project is, i.e. We will be bundling diapers for families in need;

  • Why this volunteer project exists, i.e. Sometimes families may be going through a hard time and may not have enough money to buy diapers for their baby;

  • The community need this project will help to solve or help make better, i.e. When a family can get a bundle of diapers from their local diaper bank, they don’t have to choose between buying diapers or buying groceries.

Maybe You Won't Need Bribes After All


When you tap into the kids interests, make it social and help them see how they are making a difference, you may find that incentives aren't needed as much. Yes, you'll still have a surly teenager that you drag out of bed or a whiny 8 year old whose world falls apart when they can't watch cartoons. But when you make volunteering something your family does, and you do it with regularity, the pleas and promises are few and far. Plus sleeping is on the weekends is overrated anyways! 😉