Minnesota Cities Magazine

Ideas in Action: Tips for Developing a Volunteer Base (sidebar)

By Danielle Cabot

Note: This is a sidebar to the article, Greenfield Volunteer Groups Help Build Community Pride.

Greenfield isn’t the only small city that can benefit from volunteer support. Here are tips compiled from Greenfield’s experiences on cultivating your own volunteer “squadron.”

Turn a negative into a positive. Use a challenging situation as a motivator instead of a deterrent. Don’t have a downtown? Create opportunities to gather in the buildings you do have so you can foster ideas and connections within the community.

Communicate respectfully with residents. If you need something, ask. If residents have ideas, listen. Reach out to organizations such as the local Lions Club, churches, and schools. Share what you’d like to do, welcome their ideas, and ask if someone would like to take the lead.

Be prepared to do the administrative work. Sometimes all that separates you from a willing volunteer base is a little paperwork. The payoff in volunteer hours can make the paid staff time worth it.

Recognize effort. Greenfield has started recognizing a “Volunteer of the Year.” The effort calls attention to good work being done and encourages others to get involved.

Be willing to do it yourself. Prepare to take the lead, at least at first. Greenfield’s Arbor Day was largely organized by city staff in its inaugural year, but three years later the balance has shifted toward resident participation.

Be willing to try things. Some ideas will succeed. Others, you will need to let go. Find what resonates with your community.

Danielle Cabot is communications assistant with the League of Minnesota Cities.
Contact: dcabot@lmc.org or (651) 281-1233.

Read the July-August 2013 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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