Becoming a Volunteer-Friendly Municipality

Posted: April 17, 2014

We know many people volunteer for non-profit organizations and faith communities. But there has also been a long tradition of volunteers helping local municipalities reach their goals. Recruiting residents to serve as volunteers can be challenging.
Volunteers may serve on the parks and recreation board or as Friends of the Parks.

Volunteers may serve on the parks and recreation board or as Friends of the Parks.

How do you avoid the "old boys network?" How do you help residents consider that they can, indeed, serve their local municipality as a volunteer? How do you engage residents at all?

Recruitment starts with a task description.

  • Begin with the title of the volunteer position (Zoning Hearing Board, Planning Commission, Community Celebration Committee)
  • Describe the duties. This can be three sentences or a link to an ordinance which describes the duties of the volunteer such as serving on the shade tree commission.
  • List the length of term of service as well as the day and time of usual meetings for that committee, board or commission. This will avoid schedule conflicts for potential volunteers.
  • Include instructions about how to apply. This could be an application on the municipality's website which is either submitted electronically or printed, completed and snail-mailed. It could be a request to submit a letter of interest and resume to the municipal office.

Recruitment continues with advertising options.

  • Place the announcement with links to the task description on the municipal website.
  • Municipal newsletters are also a good tool to use if publication timing is right.
  • Posters and brochures help get the word out. Post them in the municipal building and at businesses around the municipality.
  • Public service announcements (PSAs) can be submitted to the local radio or cable TV station or to the local newspaper. The newspaper is a good place to recruit retired people, but not good if you are trying to recruit younger residents.
  • If your municipality uses social media, employ that to advertise. This will draw in some younger residents.
  • The very best recruitment tool is to ASK! Personally ask people you know who might be qualified to submit an application. Network. Who do they know in the neighborhood who might be interested in serving? Be sure to tell the prospective volunteer the entire selection process. Just because they were asked, it doesn't guarantee they'll be selected. Sometimes people don't know about the opportunities to serve their local government, so invite them to participate.

All volunteers like to know they are appreciated through recognition.

  • On your website, feature volunteers who did an especially good job.
  • Name the volunteers and include a photograph in your newsletter.
  • invite all the municipality's volunteers to a simple breakfast, lunch or dinner. Invite their spouses too. After all, spouses have "released" their better halves to help the municipality.
  • Celebrate!

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Becoming a Volunteer-Friendly Municipality

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Contact Information

Neal Fogle
  • Extension Educator, Community & Economic Development
Phone: 570-556-4743