Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers

Rural Volunteer cover photo

The OSM/VISTA Teams completed a pioneering three-year research project on rural volunteerism throughout Appalachia and the Rocky Mountain West with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds.  After engaging in place-based research in 34 rural communities, we created the Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers to share approaches to volunteer recruitment, management and retention that are successful in rural settings.  It also contains one-of-a-kind tools needed by rural organizations to build sustainable volunteer management infrastructure.

Message from OSM/VISTA Teams Coordinator
This is a toolkit for little places, the ones that don’t have a Volunteer Coordinator or a Development Officer or even a full-time Director, the ones that depend almost exclusively on volunteers. These communities are the sum and substance of both the Appalachian Coal Country Team and the Western Hardrock Watershed Team and it was these rural communities that provided the research base for this project.

You will find three basic sections, each of which can provide significant insight and ideas for rural volunteers. The first is Rural Volunteer Statistics, an extensive survey of the volunteers themselves— learn just who our rural volunteers are, what they do, where they associate and how best they can be reached.

The second, Rural Volunteer Management Practices, summarizes 25 different volunteer practices that work. We know they work because we first identified practices that were working well in a rural community, transplanted those practices to 50 other places and then watched them for a year to see how they worked in a different context. Think of this section as a good idea catalogue, a collection of approaches to volunteer management that have been tested and documented, whether successful or unsuccessful.

Third, we’ve created Tools, a dozen
worksheets, templates and checklists that any small community will find useful as they begin a project or as they carry that project out to success.

You are not likely to find more useful, tested information for rural community volunteers. I’m proud of the great work Joe and Jenna did over nearly four years to bring this idea to a useful reality and deliver to your hands a product I know you will find useful, not just now but for years to come.

- T Allan Comp, Ph.D.
Project Director
Coordinator: OSM/VISTA Teams

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