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Guidelines for Groups Using Family Volunteers

For successful family volunteering, Sheryl Nefstead, an assistant professor at the cooperative extension service of the University of Minnesota, offers these tips to organizations relying on unpaid help:

Be clear about job descriptions for volunteer tasks. Many people are very goal-oriented.

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Be flexible about scheduling and realistic about time commitments. ''It's so easy to say, 'This won't take long,' and then it goes on and on,'' Ms. Nefstead explains.

Be sure projects have value. ''Families have crowded schedules, and there's no more time for busy work.''

Treat family members as equals. ''None of this top-down stuff.''

Involve children and teens in planning. Often they come up with better ideas.

Give children and young people hands-on experience. They need to have a finished product they can look at and feel good about, whether it's a sandwich they've made for a soup kitchen or a bag of trash they've picked up in a cleanup campaign.

Make projects and activities enjoyable. ''It's got to be fun.''

Praise individuals. ''You can always find something positive, even if it's very small.''

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Create opportunities for families to be at their best. You want them to succeed.

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