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What kind of volunteer are you?
There is no single solution that will solve your volunteer woes. Volunteers will always be hard to recruit and kept interested. However, there are a few things your group can try to boost participation. Outlining what roles volunteers can take part in as a member of your watershed group can help. Have clear roles defined for people interested in getting involved in your group. It is unproductive to invite potential or current volunteers to meetings and not have tasks for each person to be involved with. The key is to keep people busy and engaged, even during those times when your group doesn’t have a big project in the works.
Watershed groups, like many other groups or jobs, need a team made up of people with different interests and skills. We all have something to bring to the table! Watershed groups are not just for people who like science and streams: it’s important to keep this in mind when talking with people for volunteer recruitment. There are skills that that have nothing to do with getting in a stream and are equally as valuable.
Are you often out walking or hiking around with friends, family, or your dog, but don’t want to get in the stream? Keeping an eye on your watershed is an important part of keeping it healthy. You may see illegal dumping, streambank erosion, areas of heavy litter, and areas where neighbors are mowing right up to the stream. You may see positive conditions and changes, like more fish and wildlife, new tree and plant growth, or fishermen and kids in the stream. Observe and report! Take pictures of what’s going on and bring it back to the watershed group. This provides material for projects, and activities to highlight in your newsletter or on social media. Get people to notice what’s going on in your watershed!
Enjoy getting outside and in the stream? Do you like collecting data? You are perfect for water quality monitoring. This means that you will go out a few times a year to several parts of the stream and do things like sample water with outdoor lab kits or look for aquatic bugs a.k.a. macroinvertebrates. Monitoring helps to figure out any issues that can be a project for your watershed group This also establishes or maintains baseline conditions, which means that your group can highlight successes in the watershed and also detect anything that may be going wrong.
Do you write in your spare time or for work? Watershed groups need folks with a knack for writing to handle newsletters, letters to businesses and politicians, and blog posts. This is a way that someone can support a watershed group without stepping outside. Your role may be as simple as taking an hour or two a month to write from home and share you work via email and watershed group meeting.
Do you enjoy talking with people in your neighborhood, work, gym class or dog park? Would you feel comfortable asking businesses to participate in a fundraiser or to post an event a bulletin board? Building relationships with people, businesses, local government and other organizations will strengthen your group. If people know about your group and have a good relationship with it, they are more likely to reference it to other people or offer to help with money, publicity, or services.
Do you enjoy using Instagram, Twitter and Facebook? Social media is important nowadays. Using social media lets people easily connect to what you are doing. Also, each watershed group and related organizations are able to promote your group’s work to get the word out even more. Take photos of a beautiful day in your watershed, people fishing, wildlife, and group work. Take photos of illegal dumping or bare stream banks. Advertise a stream cleanup day or a watershed day in your community. This is an easy way to do A LOT for your group without ever setting foot in a stream.
Do you enjoy planning events and projects? Event planning is a necessary skill for a watershed group and another way for someone to be involved and not be outside in the stream. An event for watershed group may include participating in a community day or watershed day, litter cleanup day, sampling session and more. Vendors, spaces, donations, volunteers, and advertising are all things that need to be coordinated for a successful day by someone with your skill set!
Is uploading and organizing data a breeze for you? Making sure data is organized and gets to the right place is very important. Data is the most useful when it is managed well. This is another way for you to be involved in a very important way without putting on rain boots and getting dirty. Organized data will be useful and make it worth the group's time to collect.