Spokane Edible Tree Project had over 90 volunteers participate in the gleaning program in 2016. This number has continued to grow over the last three years, as SETP gains recognition throughout the community. However, as with most nonprofits, the difficulty comes in finding committed and consistent volunteers. SETP has worked to develop a variety of methods to address this challenge.
Outreach and Recruitment. As a young organization, SETP is still establishing themselves within the community. Therefore, volunteer outreach and recruitment is crucial to accomplishing our mission. SETP used a variety of methods to conduct outreach and recruit volunteers for the harvest season. This including tabling at events such as Earth Day Spokane, Vegfest, local farmers markets, and block parties. This allows the organization to meet like minded individuals throughout the community and recruit volunteers for upcoming events. This year, outreach was also conducted by attending neighborhood council meetings in Spokane. Board members and staff attended about ten meetings to tell community residents about SETP’s program. SETP also utilizes other volunteer organizing platforms, such as United Way’s Volunteer Spokane program. Events are posted on their website as opportunities, and people are able to sign up on their website. Along with attending events, word of mouth has been very successful in recruiting volunteers. Friends of board members have helped to organize groups of volunteers or sent out information about our events through their work emails.
Engagement. One of the difficulties in running a “seasonal” volunteer program is keep volunteers engaged throughout the year. In order to combat this, a newsletter is sent out with program updates, upcoming events, and volunteer/tree owner spotlights each month. SETP also maintains an active Facebook page and Instagram to post pictures and informational videos that are relevant to the mission. In 2016, only one educational event was held in the off season, but SETP has plans to increase this number to 5 or 6 educational events to keep volunteers and tree owners engaged throughout the season. SETP continues to improve communication with volunteers and hopes to conduct surveys with volunteers about how best to communicate about volunteer opportunities.
Retention and Appreciation. Each year, SETP hosts a volunteer kick off event to begin harvest season. Food and drink are provided, and the programs of the organization are presented. This gives people an idea of what to expect for the upcoming season, and allows them to see the faces of the organization. About 60 individuals attended this event. This year, the Spokane Edible Tree Project will also host an End of Season volunteer appreciation party as well. Volunteers who have exceeded a certain amount of time will receive a goodie bag with some Spokane Edible Tree Project “swag”, and free drink and food will be provided at this event, as well. In addition to these events, the HAH VISTA works hard to build and maintain relationships with the volunteers to ensure that they are appreciated and know their value.
The Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) was founded in 2013 by former HAH Americorps VISTA Kate Burke. Through her work in a produce recovery position at Second Harvest Food Bank, she recognized the abundance of fruit trees in Spokane County, and noticed that much of this fruit goes to waste. SETP was formed to fill this gap in the system and to empower the community to share the resources that are so abundantly available to them. SETP became a certified 501(c)(3) in 2015. The organization operated fully on volunteers for the first three years. In 2016, they recruited their first HAH Americorps VISTA, who serves as the program coordinator for the organization. SETP has continued to grow and develop over the last three years, and has worked hard to make a name for itself in the community. In 2016, their most successful year yet, 42,000 lbs of fruit were harvested and donated to various community partners.
WSU Extension of Spokane County has been a valuable partner for SETP, as they have helped to support and supervise the HAH Americorps VISTA. The extension office was also essential partners in developing the SETP educational programming.