Reviving rural volunteerism

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – Volunteers are the heart of the community; that is a commonly touted phrase especially during Volunteer Week in April, but how often do we think about the recruitment of volunteers in rural areas? If you are a member of a volunteer organization, the answer is always.

On June 23 a workshop was held at the Guysborough Canadian Legion lead by the Executive Director of Community Links Helen MacDonnell to discuss recruitment of volunteers and members for rural volunteer organizations.

The problem of a decreasing volunteer pool due to outmigration and an aging demographic is the same across the country. It can create a heavy burden on those who are active volunteers; often resulting in volunteer burnout. Organizations need more volunteers to help carry the load.

The first point MacDonnell suggested is for organizations to focus on establishing and publicizing the benefits the organization brings to the community. Ask the question: what loss would the community incur if the organization was no longer in operation?

The next step is to outline volunteer positions. People are reluctant to volunteer if they are unclear about what duties they may be asked to perform and what time commitment may be required.

Another step is to create value for the volunteer. What benefits does the individual receive by volunteering their time and skills to the organization? Along with this, organizations need to look at barriers to volunteering. Do people feel welcome and needed?

There are many points to consider when recruiting volunteers in rural areas. It often feels like a challenge and it is, but MacDonnell offered good strategies to approach the issue. Those that attended the workshop, members of the Guysborough Canadian Legion and the Guysborough Historical Society, came up with some creative ideas as well and pitched some tactics that worked in the past to engage community and volunteers.

In the coming months workshop participants will endeavour to implement several ideas that arose in the session including a winter Volunteer Fair to highlight the role of organization in the community and recruit members.