Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers

"A one-of-a-kind toolkit needed by rural organizations to build sustainable volunteer management infrastructure."

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.


Rural Volunteer Web Site Logo

Case Study #23: Hosting a 5k Race

Based on the work of
George’s Creek Watershed Association
Western Maryland
George’s Creek Watershed Association (GCWA) found a unique and healthy way to get potential volunteers’ attention. By hosting a 5k race event, the organization can obtain entrants’ information and entry fees during the registration period. Running events are a great way to get people interested in an organization and provides the opportunity to spread your message, engage volunteers and solicit membership. It can also be effective in boosting the number of small donors contributing to your organization. GCWA estimates that it took 15-20 volunteers several weeks to plan and put on the event.

Tested by
Friends of Lower Muskingum River
Southeast Ohio
Friends of Lower Muskingum River (FLMR) wanted to hold a 5k run/walk event in order to attract a younger segment of the population and boost their name recognition within the community. A large majority of FLMR’s membership is retired, senior citizens and FLMR wanted to expand and diversify their membership and volunteer base. FLMR planned a family-oriented walk/run aimed at less serious walkers, joggers, runners and community members. Challenges that arose during the planning phase of this event involved obtaining permits and event insurance. Event insurance, in particular, was very expensive. FLMR did not have general liability insurance before the run/walk, so they had to purchase it. FLMR organized and put on their first “Earth Day 5k: Run/Walk for the River” in the evening of April 22, 2010. It was the largest event of the year with 131 participants and 50 volunteers. Almost all of the participants in the event had never been involved with FLMR. After the event was completed, FLMR created a how-to guide explaining how to put on this type of event in the future. FLMR’s 5k, though very successful, took several months of planning and was very time consuming. It also required a large initial investment. FLMR considers this event worth repeating because it was one of the largest events their organization has ever held.

Tested by
Schuylkill Headwaters Association
Northeast Pennsylvania
Schuylkill Headwaters Association (SHA) hoped to raise money for their organization and spread awareness in the community about abandoned mine drainage (AMD) by holding a 5k race. This trial practice was entirely new to SHA, not only because of the nature of the event, but because of the type of volunteers it involved. SHA aimed for a younger audience than their usual volunteers. The race was named “The Wabash Dash” since the race route paralleled Wabash Creek. The route passed the Reevesdale AMD treatment system and ended near a historic mine tunnel with an AMD treatment system. SHA decided on this route because the Tamaqua Historical Society planned to hold the Tamaqua Heritage Festival on the same day and agreed to allow the 5k race to be a part of the festival. The Tamaqua Historical Society also helped promote the event in conjunction with their press releases about the Tamaqua Heritage Festival. Twelve volunteers helped work the event and there were 39 registered walkers and runners. After the race took place, participants went to the Newkirk Mine Tunnel for the awards ceremony. The Tunnel is a historic mining site where the PA Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation maintains an AMD treatment system. The participants were given a tour of the tunnel and a description of SHA’s work.

“I think that a 5K is a good event to get people of all ages and abilities together to celebrate heritage, learn about AMD and watershed groups. It will also be a good event to hold annually if we choose to do so.

– Schuylkill Headwaters Association