Volunteer Relations at Blue Mountain Action Council
- BMAC has accounts on volunteer sites JustServe, VolunteerMatch, and United Way of the Blue Mountains. These sites allow nonprofits to post volunteer opportunities, volunteers can contact through the site or directly with the coordinator. The sites are very amenable to specific events and more general calls for volunteers.
- Working with churches- Blue Mountain Community Church, Seventh Day Adventists, schools like Walla Walla University, Whitman College, Walla Walla Community College, and businesses like winery/vineyard staff. These groups will generally have robust volunteer groups willing to come out on a regular basis. Setting up schedules with these groups will help maintain relationships and flow for volunteers.
- Utilize the farmer’s market, Downtown WW and College Place. Farmer’s Markets are a great place to connect with people who already have a vested interest in farming and may be interested in volunteering for gleaning events or food distributions. Having materials to hand out including flyers that show all of BMACs and BMAC Food Bank’s services, business cards for volunteers to contact, sign-up sheets for upcoming volunteer opportunities, and posters with photos of past opportunities and information about volunteering.
- Speaking at service clubs, companies, schools, fraternities, and sororities will help spread the word about opportunities.
- Tabling at fairs, community events, and festivals with a sign-up sheet.
- Media attention through newspapers and magazine articles.
- Word of mouth, having current volunteers recruit their friends and family.
- Facebook posts about past and upcoming volunteer opportunities. This demonstrates the impact of past gleans and distributions while plugging future events.
Volunteers fill out a registration form or sign-up for an event, they are added into a volunteer management program called Volgistics. BMAC’s volunteer application is available on the nonprofit’s website. Volunteers that do not complete this application can be added to the system after they show up for their first volunteer event. Take the time to call the volunteer to make a personal connection, understand exactly what type of opportunities they are looking for, and connect them with different programs. This call will help mitigate any issues with miscommunication or misinformation. When a volunteer event is scheduled, like a glean, an email is sent out calling for volunteers. If email is not an option, call volunteers that have expressed interest. When sending out a volunteer call request volunteers RSVP to the coordinator or on Volgistics schedule to make the planning process easier. If a group wants to volunteer on a specific day, try to find a farmer that has excess produce and can accommodate the group.
It is important to engage your volunteers in the off season as well. Plan a seed sorting party, a movie night about hunger, a fresh food drive at a local grocery store, or a winter potluck to get everyone together.
BMAC has every volunteer complete a liability waiver, photo release, demographic information, and DEI training checklist. These forms must be completed before the volunteer engages with the event. Asking volunteers to come ten minutes early to a scheduled event to fill out paperwork helps eliminate the need for them to make a second trip to the food bank to fill out forms.
Volunteer training occurs on site. If the grower is available, BMAC asks them to give a quick demonstration on how to harvest the produce and go over any special instructions. The gleaning coordinator makes sure to remind volunteers to be respectful of the farm, produce, and tools. BMAC has found that gleans lasting 2-3 hours, scheduled in the late afternoon or evening or on weekends, work best for volunteers.
Tracking volunteer hours and events is important for reporting and for any volunteer that needs to reach a certain amount of hours. Volgistics tracks the volunteer’s personal data as well as the programs they volunteer, which events they attend, and their hours. Volunteer hours are also kept on BMAC’s backup drive.
At the end of the glean, make sure to promote future gleans to volunteers. Get them excited about upcoming opportunities. Follow up with volunteers via email to let them know the stats from the day. Express gratitude, inform them on how many pounds were harvested, where the produce will be distributed, and how many families this donation will feed. This follow-up helps create a connection between the farmers generosity, volunteers work and shows the next steps being done at the food bank. For volunteers, inform them again of future volunteer opportunities. For farmers, reiterate gratitude and plans for a next glean or volunteer event. Host an end-of-the-season volunteer potluck or party to celebrate all the hard work and produce you brought in this season!