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Generous Volunteer Authority, How to Get It

When we volunteer, we do so with the motivation and intention of doing the best good. The term "generous authority" means to use our (volunteer) power to achieve an outcome that is generous. Meaning that the outcome is for the good of others.

When we gather to do good, we instinctively do so with a generous heart. We can't exactly be generous if we don't care. So what does "generous authority", a psychology term, have to do with family volunteering?

Go in knowing what you are doing and why

There are two purposes to volunteering: what are we doing and why does it matter.

To get the most out of any family volunteer project we must first get super specific - what do we want to accomplish? We want to package hygiene kits for unhoused teens. And what do we hope to achieve at the end of this project? In one hour, we will have made 100 hygiene kits and created kindness notes for each kit. These kits will then be given to teens when street outreach is done.

When we have a good purpose, it helps us make better decisions. A good purpose inspires and cultivates the resourcefulness of every volunteer.

A Kid Volunteer packing school bags with supplies for kids in need.

How curious are you?

Volunteering means being open to new perspectives. When we engage in a give-back project, we create a tangible item (i.e. a kindness card, a diaper bundle, a wall mural) and gain new understanding of the people impacted by our volunteering (i.e. this card will help someone who is lonely, a family won't have to choose between diapers or bills, this wall mural will bring joy to a neighborhood).

There's often so much we don't know about the beneficiaries of our volunteering. When we remain open, curious and suspend judgement, we can give back in a meaningful way.

Do you have a volunteering pregame?

Volunteering begins long before your family shows up at the project location. To get the most of any volunteering experience, the Kid Volunteers need to be positively primed:

  • Have you talked to them about what they will be doing and why? Our pre-volunteering info email always includes 2-3 questions you can ask Kid Volunteers prior to the start of the project to get them prepped to give back;

  • Is there a book you can read together on the topic?

  • Have you visited the benefiting nonprofit's website or social media to learn about what they do and who they serve?

Keep talking even when the volunteering is over

The impact of the volunteering doesn't have to end when the project is complete. Continue the conversation in the car, around the dinner table or when hanging out. Ask the Kid Volunteers what they thought, what they observed, how they can continue to help.

Encourage them to make meaning and reflect on their volunteering experience. What will they take with them into their every day lives to craft a better world?


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