(and our rebuttals)

AIMG_1280s a charity involved in the volunteer recruitment business, we get to hear a lot of reasons why people can’t volunteer. Last month, our recruitment team spent over 100 hours in the community, tabling events, presenting to companies and universities, striking up conversations with strangers, putting up posters, and working their hardest to find caring adults to spend some time with children. They’ve heard ALL the reasons in the book; here are their Top 12.

1.    You don’t have enough time.
Nowadays, everyone’s schedules are so full and sometimes it’s almost a contest to see who’s “busier”. We’re not saying you’re not busy, but we’ve been hard pressed to find someone who can’t point to one hour a week that could be used instead to transform the life of a child. Sarah Chan is the mother of two young kids, a piano teacher, and the Mayor’s wife. She tells us “if I can find time to volunteer, so can everyone (except maybe my husband).”

2.    You’re not good with kids or you have ZERO experience with them.
Honestly, that’s okay. We provide modest training, your first meeting happens alongside one of our staff, and we provide a long list of cool and inexpensive things you and your Little you can do. You really don’t need any special talents to be a friend and mentor to a child; you just have to care about them. We bet if you’re reading this, you already care. Our friend, Alexis, tells a really moving and simple story of mentoring. Check it out here.

3.    You don’t want to work with children who experience mental or physical obstacles.
With so many children enrolled in our programs and waiting for a mentor, our volunteers have the opportunity to work with kids all across the spectrum of need. Some kids have a diagnosis that requires an adult prepared to give a bit of additional support, and others are kids who just need another person in their life to care about them. Our goal is to make the match as beneficial for kiddo as possible and that won’t happen if we match you with someone you’re uncomfortable around. So be honest and tell our staff what your preferences are. With the number of kids we have waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll find you a Little you’ll adore.

4.    You already volunteer for another organization.
Amazing! Our community has so many fantastic organizations all doing important work and we would never want to pull you away from them. The more people supporting Edmonton’s non-profits and charities the better. Just do us a favour and think about if you have an additional hour to spend with us. If you do, consider applying to volunteer with us too. Either way, we salute the work you’re already doing for our community!

5.    You don’t think you’d be a good role model to a kid.
This is one of the most common concerns we hear from potential volunteers. Do you plan on taking kiddo to a bar? Teaching him how to smoke? Showing her how to steal from the grocery store? We didn’t think so. Even if you’ve had a shaky past yourself, if you’ve been able to recognize that, chances are you’ll be an amazing role model. Mentoring doesn’t mean you’ve done amazing things or have a perfect history.

6.    You don’t have transportation to drive children around.
That’s totally not the end of the world. We’ve got mentoring opportunities where you visit the same location each week so you can figure out a bus schedule or get a friend or family member to drop you off. Check out our In-School Mentoring program or our Club Volunteering. Trust us, if you want to work with kids, we can find something that works for you.

7.    You don’t want to be a babysitter.
Fair enough. When we were younger and babysitting, it wasn’t all that fun, even for money. But this is SO different. You make a friend. Yes, you’re responsible for kiddo while you’re out on the town, but you’re not treated like a babysitter by the family and you don’t have to be confined to a house. Having a Little means you get to try out all sorts of new activities and find things you both like to do. It’s basically the opposite of babysitting.

8.    You don’t have any money to spend on activities with children.
We’re experts at finding low-cost and no-cost activities and we share them on Facebook and Twitter, in our monthly newsletter, and even through personalized emails from your Match Facilitator.  Plus, you’re only responsible for your part of the expense; the kiddo’s parents or guardians provide enough money for the child to go on the outing. It means you usually have to confirm plans with the parents ahead of time to make sure they can afford it too, but it works pretty well for most of our volunteers. We also put on a Match Event once a month for our Bigs and Littles. We’ve done rock climbing, trampoline jumping, playing at Chuck E Cheese, and more! And for you and your Little, it’s free! Oh, and there are so many other things you can do with a kid for free every day – walking in the park, making a snowman, or doing a craft are just a few examples.

9.    You have your own children.
By no means do we expect volunteers to spend less time with their own families. We believe that a successful child starts with a caring and supportive family. But, maybe you have a teenager and want to spend an hour a week with a 6 year old, or vice versa. Once, your relationship with the Little is fully formed you can take your kids along on outings too. Think of it as setting a good example for your kids! Know that we mean it when we say “Big Brother or Big Sister”, we don’t expect you to parent your Little.

10.    You think you’re too old or too young.
We don’t believe there’s such a thing (with the exception of teenagers under the age of 18 – we have a special program for you). Everyone, at every stage of their lives has something positive to offer a child. Some kids want their mentor to be super young and hip, and others need another wise figure in their life. Either way, kids can learn so much from you.

11.    You can’t volunteer every week because you work out of town, or just can’t commit to that frequency.
That’s absolutely okay. What we stress more than frequency is consistency. We’ve got matches who meet every week for an hour and others who meet once a month for an entire afternoon. Both ways, the volunteer ensures it’s consistent – something the child can count on. We push for one hour a week because studies show that it’s the most effective, but we’re flexible.

12.    You’re worried the child won’t like you or that you won’t have anything in common.
We’re also experts at matching volunteers and children. Both of you go through an initial in-depth interview so we can learn as much as we can about each of you – your likes, dislikes, hobbies, traits. We figure out what kind of Big the child wants and what kind of Little you want. Then we match you. Plus, we make sure you’re interested in at least some of the same activities. You like hockey or swimming or baking? Then we’ll find you a child who does too, or at the very least, who wants to learn.

If any of these reasons and our rebuttals resonate with you, please consider signing up to be a volunteer. If you’re already a volunteer, share this with your friends! We bet some of them have thought these same things when they found out you were volunteering. If you have questions or other concerns, give us a call at 780.424.8181 or email us; we’d love to chat!

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