Adding New Volunteers to the Mix

Last week, I had a volunteer pull me aside after a community development planning or update session to share an amazing story of new activities and accomplishments she and just four other inspired residents achieved in under six months!  When reflecting back on that brief conversation, one point became clear.  While she was obviously dedicated to her town and very committed to completing her projects, her passion, why she ran up to me after the meeting, was the momentum of progress that her small group was starting to ride like a surf board!

Expanding the circle of individuals typically engaged in your community and economic development efforts helps bring new enthusiasm and vitality to what may seem to be issues that have been  addressed forever.  Quality of life, education, recreation, workforce and even BR&E initiatives will certainly benefit from the perspective of teachers, students, retirees, ministers, stay at home parents, homeschoolers, recent veterans, musicians, inventors and trailing spouses.

Task teams of individuals providing input and feedback on a single issue is an effective method of introducing them to economic development and tackling an area that can generate some level of accomplishment in a short period of time, e.g. a community clean up/fix up day, attending a small business employee recognition event or participating in a community visit to observe best practices.  Celebrating the value of these contributions further heightens new volunteer interest and builds a sense of ownership in local development efforts.  You will likely find that your more traditional board members and volunteers welcome the assistance and value and a fresh perspective in these areas.

James Hoelscher – IDM Program Manager