Learning how to attract and keep volunteers is vital to a rural community’s survival, a longtime community organizer told an Ag Days audience.
Wendy Bulloch, who has extensive experience working with nonprofit, rural and youth organizations said volunteers are the basis of communities.
Treating volunteers as you would employees is one way to maintain interest. Clear job descriptions and timelines for projects are all ways to keep a volunteer force engaged. Also, not all volunteering positions must be continuous. One-time projects are a great way to involve people who normally don’t have time.
Bulloch’s presentation, which was attended by about 15 people, was aptly called, “If everyone says no, what happens to our rural communities?” The goal was to provide insight and reason to why small towns and rural communities are languishing and what can be done about it.
Bulloch said volunteer recruitment is among four factors communities must understand as they plan their future. They must also focus on demographics, community assets and potential partnerships.
Bul loch suggested using Statistics Canada Community Profiles, which provides detailed information about the demographics in all Manitoba cities, towns, municipalities, and villages.
Every community has assets; they just need to be identified. Assets range in everything from schools, to grain elevators, to giant pumpkins. Traditional assets fall into five groups; natural, built, social, economic, and services. A strong, viable community will have some of everything to accommodate all the people in the community, as well as attract newcomers, tourists and news business ventures.
Partnerships are key for growth. Whether it is partnering with businesses or nearby communities, partnerships allow for more people, more ideas, and most of all, more money. Most other communities are suffering the same problems, so establishing a partnership might be easier than in the past. If you are looking to establish a partner within another town or even a local business make sure it’s a win-win scenario so there is an incentive to carry the idea forward.