Structuring Meaningful Opportunities

Once you know your program’s needs in terms of project leaders, begin to construct volunteer leadership roles that will appeal to and be meaningful for college students. College is a busy time — students are learning and developing skills for the future, and their volunteer experiences should match that goal.

Meaningful Student Volunteer Leader Positions

When creating an “ideal” student volunteer leader position, keep these things in mind:

  • Offer students an opportunity that will actually mean something and make an impact on the community. Even with those tasks that may not be “glamorous” on the surface, find a way to make the tasks more meaningful. Be prepared to offer some unique assignments that will fit into the organization’s needs and help the student see the value of his service. Student volunteer leaders have much to offer, so take the time to create roles that make the most of their skills.
  • Provide opportunities that students can quickly relate to, such as local community issues, international issues or movements, or academic areas of interest.
  • Present opportunities for students to hold real responsibility, grow their leadership abilities, and develop personal and professional skills.
  • Create opportunities that are ambitious, but not intimidating. The goal is to engage students in meaningful ways that can truly make an impact, not overwhelm them by trying to tackle too much at once. If a leader is successful in one project, she will most likely return to lead another volunteer effort.
  • Provide a collaborative setting. When you are working with the "millenial" generation, remember that students in this age group tend to require more supervision and direction, but they are very community-oriented and generally enjoy group work.

Volunteer Position Descriptions

A volunteer position description outlines the responsibilities, support, and benefits of specific volunteer opportunities. It should include the following components:

Title – Provide a descriptive title that gives the volunteer a sense of identity. This will also help program staff and other volunteers understand the assigned role.

Purpose/objective – Use no more than two sentences to describe the specific purpose of the position. If possible, state the purpose in relation to the nonprofit’s mission and goals.

Location – Describe where the person will be working.

Key responsibilities – List the position’s major responsibilities. Clearly define what the volunteer is expected to do as part of this assignment.

Qualifications – Clearly list education, experience, knowledge, skills, and age requirements. Also note if the opportunity is accessible to people with disabilities. If a background check is required, it should be indicated here.

Time commitment – Note the length of the assignment, hours per week, and/or other special requirements.

Training/support provided – Define the nature and length of all general and position-specific training required for the assignment. Also list resources and other support available to the volunteer.

Benefits – Describe benefits available to the volunteer, such as lunch, T-shirt, development opportunities.

Volunteer supervisor and contact information – List the name and contact information for the staff person or volunteer leader who will be working most directly with the volunteer.

Remember that the role of a student volunteer leader involves broader responsibility and ownership in addition to specific tasks. The position description should reflect the depth of a project leader’s role. Additionally, position descriptions should be flexible to meet the talents and interests of students. You may find that you need to modify position descriptions after talking with schools or community agencies and assessing their needs and interests.

Using Volunteer Position Descriptions

The volunteer position description clearly outlines what students will do as volunteer leaders, the skills required, and the support and benefits they will receive. You may also choose to develop a volunteer position description to define the role of the project leader.

Click the link to download a volunteer position description worksheet that you can adapt and utilize for your own program. VolunteerPositionDescription.pdf

Once you have created a volunteer position description for student volunteer leaders serving your program, you can begin to connect with local campuses.