Archive | March, 2013

Volunteer Management Strategies For Your Downtown

14 Mar

Volunteers are the glue that holds downtown programs together. With a small staff and limited resources, the people in your community are your best assets. Whether they help with an outdoor event or festival, participate on a downtown revitalization committee, or assist with day-to-day office duties, it’s important to keep them engaged and feeling appreciated. Consider these tips and resources to help bring your volunteer management capacity to the next level.

1. Know the type of assistance you need. It is extremely important for volunteers to feel like they are contributing, otherwise they will not have a purpose for helping your organization and may be less reliable. Work with your events committee to determine a consistent approach to recruit volunteers and plan it out! Write out a plan for your year-long events and where you need folks to help. Post the different jobs and shifts needed online or in an email to people who have shown interest in volunteering, and keep records of all shifts filled and still available.

2. Provide volunteers with the necessary resources. Make sure the volunteers are properly trained on their jobs. For example, if a large event draws thousands of people, they may need to review crowd management techniques, or if there is alcohol being served, they should be trained to ID and serve. Plan for a volunteer orientation at the beginning of the season or before the event to ensure they feel well prepared. Include information about your organization’s mission, history, and any other helpful background details that can help your volunteer serve as an ambassador for your organization or community.

3. Show your appreciation! Volunteers can be one of your strongest asset,s and volunteers who return year after year provide your events or programming with a consistent quality that comes from experience and devotion to your organization. By tracking how many hours your volunteers have committed to your organization, you can ensure everyone gets the appreciation they deserve. Consider low-cost, but valuable take-aways for event volunteers (e.g., t-shirts, posters, mugs) or educational opportunities for those volunteering in the office (e.g., networking event invitations, organizational membership, job referrals). Make sure to give extra recognition to those who go the extra mile. Consider hosting a special event just to thank your volunteers and recognize all of their contributions.

4. Do your research and continue to improve your processes. Check out the below resources for ideas on how to streamline and maintain your volunteer program.

The Western Hardrock Watershed Team  Resource Guide for Rural Volunteers (available online for download or purchase)

Virginia Main Street Presentation: Engaging and Motivating Volunteers

DCI Member-Only Resource Library

Volunteer Tracking Programs

Volunteer Spot

EventBrite

Volunteer Management Examples

New London Main Street Volunteer Tracking Form

LaGrande Volunteer Manual

Spotlight on…Parker

14 Mar

DCI has been busy with technical assistance in 2013 and has already completed four visits since the beginning of the year including Parker, Estes Park, Bennett, and Grand Lake!

DCI brought a technical assistance team to Parker on January 28-29, 2013. The team was asked to address a number of challenges including parking strategies, merchandising and window displays, the need for a greater business mix, and a cluster analysis in downtown. Another main focus for Parker’s revitalization included the “Parker Square,” which was developed in the late 1970s and 80s as a series of small offices and retail buildings. This area was built without constant sidewalks, has a variety of architecture, and is in need of visioning and branding assistance.

Observations gathered throughout the focus groups and from community stakeholders largely expressed the love for Parker’s small town feel, its unique and colorful history, and the increased excitement around the arts community and creative districts. Other observations included the need for a community gathering space, limited transportation, and the need to address an aging population.

Recommendations from the team concentrated on increasing communication amongst the pillars of the community, developing a brand for Parker that will differentiate the community and highlight its own character, rebrand Parker Square to a technology center and/or medical business incubator, and declare the downtown a priority with clearly defined boundaries and outlying tiers.

To accomplish the recommendations the team suggested holding monthly organizational meetings of stakeholders to foster increased communication for joint planning around vision and objectives for events, volunteers, downtown design and business support. To leverage the excitement around creative districts, the team suggested creating a creative districts plan that goes beyond the arts to guide a vision of downtown development that includes placemaking, retail, arts, residential, etc.

Utilizing DCI’s downtown assessment and subsequent report, Parker hopes to move forward to engage the community and foster a cohesive vision for downtown.