A Fully DIY Volunteer Program: Trying to Facilitate as Much Harvesting as Possible
As COVID-19 continued to surge throughout the year, Urban Abundance was faced with the question- how would they run their harvest season this year, with a mind toward social distancing as well as organizational sustainability?
Throughout the three years of VISTA, a more robust “DIY” model of harvesting was regularly a topic of conversation. Not only is this model of harvesting strategic for sustainability purposes when the possibility of a future staff person is uncertain, but it also speaks to Urban Abundance’s mission of facilitating a culture of fruit sharing and neighborhood harvesting. This year, the program bought a subscription with the website Duplie, an online volunteer and event management software. The program allows users to host forms, videos, donation options, and events with a huge amount of customizations available.
There were several steps involved in the process of setting the software up: the VISTA, along with a core volunteer and fruit tree expert/retired risk manager, Paul Stasz, filmed several safety videos for volunteers to watch before signing the liability release hosted on the Duplie site as the sign up form. The liability release was customized to include releases around COVID as well as the typical liability topics. VISTA consulted with the organization’s insurance company to make sure everything was written as it needed to be. The third year VISTA, with the help of an intern, went through Urban Abundance’s Fruit Tree Registry and called all of the registered fruit tree owners. Everyone who expressed interest in having their fruit harvested for donation was given a run down of how harvest season was to be organized that year and if they were comfortable with having volunteers contact them directly to help harvest their fruit, were placed on a tentative schedule of events. The VISTA then followed up with them a week ahead of their scheduled date to confirm that the fruit was ready for harvest. Once volunteers watched the safety videos and signed the liability release, they would get access to the hosted harvest events on Duplie that VISTA had scheduled with fruit tree owners.
Once they had signed up for harvests, volunteers were then given instructions on where they could go to borrow pole pickers and milk cartons to put the fruit they picked in. Being so fully DIY, and such a new system, Urban Abundance and the VISTA struggled a little bit with getting enough volunteer engagement to fully harvest everything that they wanted to, but volunteers were able to harvest and donate about 2100 lbs. of fruit. Though this number was significantly less than prior years, UA staff and the Board of Directors still considered it a win, since it marks some success at the beginning of developing an entirely new volunteer model that will be carried on into future years.