Volunteer Relations with Spokane Edible Tree Project
Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) had approximately 250 volunteers participate in the gleaning program in 2018. The number of volunteers has continued to grow each year, as SETP gains recognition throughout the community. However, as with most nonprofits, the difficulty comes in finding committed and consistent volunteers. SETP has worked to develop a variety of methods to address this challenge:
Outreach and Recruitment. As a young organization, SETP is still establishing itself within the greater Spokane community. Volunteer outreach and recruitment are crucial to accomplishing the organization’s mission. SETP has used a variety of methods to conduct outreach and recruit volunteers for the harvest season. One way that SETP has been able to recruit volunteers is by tabling at local events. This allows the organization to meet like-minded individuals throughout the community, and recruit volunteers for upcoming gleans. They also utilize online platforms such as Volunteer Match and United Way’s Volunteer Spokane website. SETP has also successfully recruited volunteers through service learning programs at colleges and universities, and by partnering with local businesses that provide incentives for their employees to volunteer.
Engagement. During gleaning season, volunteers are engaged by receiving weekly gleaning email updates. In 2018, SETP introduced Thursday Night Gleans and Saturday Morning Gleans, which allows volunteers to have a consistent schedule for gleaning throughout the season. However, one of the difficulties in running a “seasonal” volunteer program is keeping volunteers engaged throughout the year. In order to combat this difficulty, a monthly newsletter is sent out with program updates, upcoming events, and other news. SETP also maintains an active social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where articles, pictures, and informational videos that are relevant to SETP’s mission are posted. Several educational events are held during the off-season, including pruning, grafting, and pest prevention classes.
Retention and Appreciation. Each year, SETP hosts a volunteer kick-off event to begin the harvest season. Food and drinks are provided, and updates about organizational programming are presented. This gives people an idea of what to expect for the upcoming season and allows them to see the faces behind the organization. Spokane Edible Tree Project also hosts an end-of-season volunteer appreciation party to thank volunteers for their contributions.