Spokane Edible Tree Project had over 200 volunteers participate in the gleaning program in 2017. The number of volunteers has continued to grow each year, 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 itself within the greater Spokane community. Volunteer outreach and recruitment is crucial to accomplishing the organization’s mission. SETP has used a variety of methods to conduct outreach and recruit volunteers for the harvest season. One way that SETP has been able to recruit volunteers is by tabling at local events. This allows the organization to meet like-minded individuals throughout the community, and recruit volunteers for upcoming gleans. They also utilize online platforms such as Volunteer Match and United Way’s Volunteer Spokane website. SETP has also successfully recruited volunteers through service learning programs at colleges and universities, and by partnering with local businesses who provide incentives for their employees to volunteer.
Engagement. One of the difficulties in running a “seasonal” volunteer program is keeping volunteers engaged throughout the year. In order to combat this difficulty, a monthly newsletter is sent out with program updates, upcoming events, and other news. SETP also maintains an active social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where articles, pictures, and informational videos that are relevant to SETP’s mission are posted. Several educational events are held during the off-season, including classes on pruning, grafting, and pest prevention.
Retention and Appreciation. Each year, SETP hosts a volunteer kick-off event to begin the harvest season. Food and drinks are provided, and updates about organizational programming are presented. This gives people an idea of what to expect for the upcoming season, and allows them to see the faces behind the organization. Spokane Edible Tree Project also hosts an end-of-season volunteer appreciation party to thank volunteers for their contributions.
Spokane Edible Tree Project (SETP) was founded in 2013 by former Harvest Against Hunger 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 is currently run by community volunteers and a Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA.
In 2016, SETP recruited their first Harvest Against Hunger AmeriCorps VISTA, who served as the program coordinator for the organization. Their second-year VISTA (2017-2018) continues to coordinate gleaning, outreach, volunteer recruitment, and educational programming. In 2017, SETP expanded to include produce recovery from the Spokane Farmers’ Market. Additionally, WSU Extension of Spokane County has been a valuable partner for SETP, supporting and supervising the AmeriCorps VISTA. The extension office has also been an essential partner in developing SETP’s educational programming.