Marketing and Visibility
The first-year AmeriCorp member at OIC of Washington in Yakima, Washington made their projects and goals visible through tabling events, communication with partner organizations, flyers, emails, and word of mouth. Other avenues that dispersed information about the program were the farmers market, community centers, the OIC garden, and housing programs. The first-year AmeriCorps member found that through consistent outreach and a positive attitude, volunteers, donors, partners and investors in food sovereignty began to slowly become engaged with the program’s projects. Once formed, these relationships were listed in a shareable Google Sheets document.
The second-year AmeriCorps member focused on creating visibility out of the Henry Beauchamp Community Center, which is part of the OIC of Washington campus. Many community events, ranging from holiday dinners to back to school resource fairs happen at the center, which are opportunities to make the program visible. These events often receive more than one hundred attendees, so it is an effective and efficient way to spread information to many community members. Spreading the word about projects is also good to do within OIC of Washington itself, due to the many different departments of the organization, all of which have their own partnerships and connections throughout the community. Collaborating with workers at OIC is extremely effective due to their knowledge of the local Yakima culture and having relationships already established throughout the area.
Yakima Valley is a resource equipped but detached community in terms of collective initiatives. There are many spaces within the valley to engage the community with informational booths and presentations, flyers but what was found to be most successful for long-term involvement and retention was being introduced to individuals through an already existing relationship.
For example, a gleaning volunteer may introduce the AmeriCorp member to someone they know at a local agency or at the city council. Or, an OIC supervisor may introduce the AmeriCorps member to a local network of gardeners. The AmeriCorp member found that this was the most successful way to form trusting, willing, and collaborative relationships that allowed for the program to become more visible in the community. A less successful way to spread information about the program was “cold calling”, which is the act of contacting people or organizations with no prior interaction having taken place.
A great way to collaborate with local organizations is exchanging publicity for their involvement in the program or projects. Organizations were more interested in sponsoring if that meant receiving publicity for their programs.
People and organizations who support the VISTA program and its projects want to see how it’s impacting the community. The first year AmeriCorps member uploaded photos and updates of the garden, produce collections, and garden education open hours to two Facebook pages, OIC’s Fruitvale Community Garden and the Yakima Valley Produce Harvest, to help the program become more visible. Both of these Facebook groups have followings from pre-existing groups that did similar things as the Harvest VISTA. Once people are engaged with these posts, it is best to regularly update the pages. Newsletters and invitations are additional ways to keep the community engaged and keep the program visible.