Every small town is struggling to find enough volunteers to keep projects going and start new ones. It’s not just you!
The trick is that people have changed, but volunteering really has not.
If you want to be part of making your community a little greener, you have to volunteer to be on the beautification committee, promise to attend a year’s worth of boring committee meetings, and then you can be part of one day of actual tree planting.
Today, though, we expect to be more flexible. We don’t plan our schedule a year in advance. If we’re going to give up some of our valuable busy time, we want to matter. We want to get straight to the doing, skip all the meeting.
Everyone is a volunteer, if you give them a small enough role
Everyone in your town who cares even a little is a potential volunteer. Not everyone has to care as much as you do. Not everyone has to care a lot.
Everyone who cares a little can do a little, but only if you let them know what their little role could be. They have to know what they could do and know that their part matters.
Give everyone in town a small but meaningful role. It goes back to what community expert Carol Colletta said:
The time has passed when a few influential people could gather in a room to decide what a city will be. Instead, a city’s future is determined by hundreds of actions taken daily by thousands of people based on what they believe about a city’s future and their role in it.”
Everyone has a small but meaningful role. If you want more volunteers, help people see that new role for themselves. Then they’ll take action.
A Tree Grows in Baltimore
Here’s exactly what that looks like, in a story from my friend Justin Kownacki:
The city recently planted dozens of new trees in my Baltimore neighborhood.
To make sure they grow properly, two slim wooden beams are planted in the soil on opposite sides of each tree’s trunk— which, at this stage, looks more like a a twig. Then a slim chain is wrapped around the trunk and stretched between the beams.
This balance between the beams keeps the tree growing straight upward until its roots take hold and it gets strong enough to stand on its own.
This morning, I watched as a guy who was walking by stopped to adjust the chain that’s holding one of these new trees up, and pull it a little tighter to help it stay upright. Then he walked away, on his way to wherever he was going.
And I realized that tree will likely still be here 100 years from now, providing shelter and sustenance to this neighborhood, all because one guy took a few minutes out of his day to help that tree get back in the right direction.
Armchair Sociologist & Perpetual Contrarian
Yes, Justin is from a big city. But that’s exactly the personal action we’re trying to create in all our small towns.
More ideas for finding volunteers
Deb Brown and I share more ideas like this in our latest webinar at SaveYour.Town, Finding More Volunteers. The video is available on-demand starting Monday October 15, 2018, and it is only available for two weeks. If you sign up now, you can also participate in the live Q&A session October 22. We welcome your questions, stories and examples from your own town.
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